Monday, 14 November 2016

November Wish List

For those of you that follow me on Twitter you'll know that I vowed to have a 'No Spend November', but that doesn't mean that I can't torture myself by doing a little internet window shopping...

1. Koko Kollection by Kylie Kosmetics - I have no interest in Kylie Jenner herself, but, as a lipstick addict, her cosmetic line does appeal to me. I've actually got a few things from her line slowly but surely making their way to me at the moment (which is part of the reason I'm on a spending ban), but as soon as I saw this 'kollection' teased on her Twitter I decided that I had to have it as well. Despite me partaking in No Spend November, I did jump in the queue when she released these on Wednesday, but they sold out before I could get my mitts on them, so kind of it serves me right for trying to spend money that shouldn't be spent on lipstick.

2. Years & Years Communion Vinyl - I've been obsessed with this album lately, I know that it's not the newest of releases, but I'm always late to the party. I'm a massive vinyl junkie and don't mind re-buying an album on vinyl if it ticks the right boxes, which usually translates as; it sounds good and has amazing artwork.

3. Jill Valentine Pop! Vinyl - Resident Evil was the first game that I vividly remember playing, maybe after Spyro the Dragon, and I always played Jill Valentine's story because even back then I loved a kick ass woman. I am so happy that they chose to make a Pop! Vinyl of her in her S.T.A.R.S uniform rather than the skimpy number that she wears during her next appearance in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.

4. Snotgirl #4 - I'm going to hold my hands up and take the abuse now... I've only seen the film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim comics and I didn't really get the hype. However, I'm rather obsessed with Bryan Lee O'Malley's latest comic; Snotgirl. On the surface Snotgirl is about a successful blogger who attempts to hide her severe allergies from the world, but underneath it's an interesting exploration of who we present ourselves as on social media compared to who we are in reality. Issues #1-3 were amazing and I can't wait for 4 to come out!

5. Lime Crime Velvetines Liquid Lipstick in Cashmere - I was browsing through Instagram when I saw someone wearing the prettiest nude lip that turned out to be Lime Crime's Velvetine liquid to matte lipstick in Cashmere. Lime Crime was a brand that I only became aware of last year when there was a scandal over them using two ingredients, ferric ferrocyanide and ultramarines, that were not approved for lip products in their Velvetine matte lipstick range. This has put me off the brand quite a bit, but I'm still intrigued by their range and this colour in particular.

6. Sleek Highlighter Palette in Solstice - I've seen this feature in a few YouTube videos lately and it makes the people that use it look like they're highlighted for the gods. I tracked it down in Boots over the weekend and the swatches were amazing! But, more importantly, I stopped myself from buying it (the power of No Spend November is strong). Plus, have you seen the packaging? Look at it, who doesn't want a rose gold metallic palette? I'll take 10.

What have you had your eye on this month? Tweet me or comment below!


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Ekaj Review

Last year the film community was captivated by a film about a day in the life of two transgender friends named Tangerine (2015), when it triumphantly burst through onto the independent scene. It's safe to say that Tangerine left people wanting more of these independent films that tackle the struggles faced by the LGBTQ community, and it's safer to say that Cati Gonzalez's directorial debut Ekaj (2015) will satisfy that want.

Ekaj follows it's titular runaway teenager on a journey through New York City as he discovers sexuality, friendship, love and even himself. Ekaj is eventually taken under the wing of a hustler named Mecca, who has AIDs, and they become fast friends. Despite all of Mecca's own issues he does everything within his power to help and guide his new friend through life.

Ekaj's heart lies firmly within it's cast and their performances. The casting of non-actors, Jake Mestre and Badd Idea, as the two leads means that the film is full of naturalistic performances. The relationship between the two is mesmerising to watch; watching their connection grow as Ekaj becomes more confident, around the already overtly confident Mecca, is like watching a genuine friendship blossom in front of you. There is a perfect blend of tenderness and humour that binds the characters together; the laughter and glances that the two share whenever Mecca innocently taunts passersby is outstandingly organic and is one of the many factors that give the audience a rapport with the people that they see on screen. Badd Idea is captivating as Mecca, with his intriguing facial tattoos and rapid, sharp talking demeanour. He perfectly breathes a subtle comedic lifeline into an otherwise serious film. Mestre is also brilliant to watch, and he portrays Ekaj at his low points beautifully, he avoids the melodramatics of trained actors in mainstream films which presents the viewer with raw, natural emotion.

Aside from the acting, Ekaj also avoids the rose tinted view of the world that mainstream, Hollywood productions enjoy providing for its audiences. Ekaj isn't a gay teen from an accepting family, he's physically and emotionally abused by his father, who states that he would have his son be anything but gay, which ultimately drives him out onto the streets and into a series of unhealthy relationships and situations. The film manages to put across some serious home truths about the hardships that the growing population of LGBTQ homeless youth in New York City face that will certainly hit viewers hard. Examples such as Mecca revealing that his situation has led to him being raped, and that he now almost accepts it as a normality as well as an inevitability, and Ekaj's prostitution as well as his welcoming of abusive boyfriends because he doesn't know any different expression of love are extremely poignant.

The cinematography in Ekaj serves the film well. The film constantly uses handheld technology that, along with the natural interactions between Mestre and Idea, adds to the film's naturalistic qualities as the viewer is placed in the scene as if they are part of the dialogue. There are many scenes in which Ekaj is film through windows which come in and out focus, almost as if to say that he, and others in his situation, are visible and right in front of us, we just need to break that barrier and reach out to them.

Ekaj is essentially an intimate snippet of Ekaj's life, we get brief glimpses of his situation prior to the narrative beginning, and we are left with a sense of what he will do next. Focusing on a short period of time allows the viewer to witness what he deals with on a daily basis under a magnifying glass and this evokes a brilliant sense of empathy. It also raises some serious points about the issue of how that the stigma of being part of the LGBTQ community for many young people leads to homelessness. The subject of AIDs is something that is also highlighted and dealt with in a refreshing and realistic way. Instead of being weighed down by it, Mecca doesn't allow his AIDs diagnosis to define him, though he asserts the fact that it is obviously a negative aspect of his life, he can still poke fun at his situation. Ultimately, Ekaj shows us that people in situations such as Ekaj and Mecca's are still people; despite the unconventional choices that they must make to survive. Giving the audience the chance to see characters in these positions from a subjective perspective teaches them a lesson; these people shouldn't be looked down upon and we shouldn't turn away and hurry by them when we encounter them on the street.

Overall, Ekaj has been perfectly assembled by Gonzalez, who not only directed the film, but also produced and wrote it alongside Mike Gonzalez. Together they have created a truthful, raw, thought provoking piece of cinema. Ekaj is not only a beacon for the plight of the LGBTQ, the homeless, and those with HIV/AIDs; but also a beacon of hope.


Saturday, 5 November 2016

The Forest Review

Aokigahara, Japan's famous 'suicide forest', has had it's share of attention from the film industry over the past few years. From the name wise duplicate, The Forest (2010), (or The Forest of the Living Dead as it was known in America), to The Sea of Trees (2015), American filmmakers have discovered a gem in this setting and Jason Zada, the man at the helm of The Forest, is one of them.

Zada's The Forest sees Sara (Natalie Dormer) travel to Japan in order to locate her missing twin sister, Jess (also played by Dormer), who was last sighted entering Aokigahara. Once she arrives she meets Aiden (Taylor Kinney), a reporter who offers to take her into the forest along with his guide in return for her permission to allow him to document her story.

The film starts off at a decent pace, with Sara telling everyone that she meets that she's a twin and can therefore sense that her sister is still alive and Jess being established as a somewhat troubled character. Then, before long, Sara, Aiden, and their guide are making their way into the suicide forest. If anything, this film must be paid its dues for attempting to stray away from relying too much on jump scares to unnerve the audience, and it's certainly a refreshing change from screaming teenagers being attacked my masked madmen. This being said, The Forest is practically a scare free film as it fails to provide enough atmosphere to be an effective horror film, and instead simply provides mysterious figures in the background of shots and what is arguably the most typical J-Horror trope: a Japanese schoolgirl.

It's evident that Natalie Dormer came here to act and tackles the dual role considerably well and, instead of going all out, she manages to create a perfect balance between sane and insane as Sara is dragged deeper into the mysteries of the forest. However, the same cannot be said for Kinney, who's performance is as bland as the title of the film and is almost unwatchable.

Right off the bat, The Forest has an air of being a film that was born out of Zada watching a documentary on Aokigahara and thinking "yep, this'll work perfectly for a horror film", before throwing together a script that was full of typical horror personifications. It turns out that this isn't too far from the truth, as producer David S. Goyer apparently read a wikipedia article on the suicide forest and was then inspired to write the film's script. Overall, The Forest deserves one star for trying to do something different, but it falls at every hurdle and doesn't warrant any recommendations.

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