52 Books in 2013 Challenge – January Update

What up, peeps?

If you read our resolutions post then you’ll be familiar with the challenge I set myself this year (stolen from the brilliant author, Joe Hill).  I aim to complete 52 books this year – this should be manageable if I am diligent and stick to four books per month or a book a week, though with longer books obviously this might be difficult so I would include some shorter books… HEY, I MAKE THE RULES!

So I thought I’d give you a little update on how I’m doing so far…

Book 1: Gerald’s Game by Stephen King

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Of course it was going to be a Stephen King – I needed to start the year off right, didn’t I?

Gerald’s Game is a book I’ve had knocking about on my bookshelf for a while and never had much of a desire to pick up, which was part of the reason why I embarked on this challenge – I know a lot of people who seem to collect books and never get round to reading them. What’s the point in having books if you don’t read and enjoy them?!

This is the story of Jessie Burlingame, who is left sprawled and handcuffed to the bed after a game with her husband goes horribly wrong, and she needs to figure out how she’s going to survive all alone in their lakeside cabin with no chance of escape.  But she soon finds out she’s not quite alone – traumatised by a childhood event, Jessie has suppressed memories which manifest as voices in her head, which make her situation even more unbearable.  When she realises how she can escape, we get into classic King horror territory – it gets reeeeeal graphic, people!

Gerald’s Game combined some of the best elements of King’s style – gore, jumps, supernatural spooks, and blurry lines between dreams and reality.

Book 2: Dolly by Susan Hill

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This was a book that we read for our book club and was chosen by one of the members after it was in turn recommended to her.  I need to state outright that I did not enjoy this book.

Hill is famous for writing the book ‘The Woman In Black’, the stage adaptation of which has been popular for many years and gained even more popularity with the release of the film last year.  Given that the title is ‘Dolly: A Ghost Story’ I was surprised and let down by the fact that there is, in fact, no ghost in this book; instead, just a creepy doll.  The story is far too boring to go into in any detail – essentially, two cousins stay with their aunt for a few weeks, realise they are very different, and the way they treat this one little doll has repercussions in both of their lives.

I grew up sharing ghost stories with my cousins, and the ones that we told one another were creepier and better than this one.  And you could argue that the atmosphere created by Hill’s descriptive prose is of some importance but even then it left me cold and bored.  Oh well, at least it was short.

Book 3: After The First Death by Robert Cormier

cormierWell, I don’t think this is cheating, but this is a book I read when I was 10 years old and couldn’t remember at all.  All I could remember was that it involved a teenage driver on a yellow school bus, the strong sense of the bus being really stuffy and hot, and the word ‘DELTA’ which I didn’t understand.  After a few Google searches, I found the book and was surprised that it was a Young Adult title.  I used to regularly steal books from my school library throughout my whole school career, and so I would just pick up any damn thing and read it.

I can’t quite believe that I read THIS when I was 10.  Cormier has always said that he did not write for teenagers but about them, and that shows in this book; he doesn’t hold back, and the events that take place can be stark and brutal at times.  ‘After The First Death’ tells the story of three teenagers – Miro, Kate, and Ben – who are connected by a hostage situation. Miro is a young apprentice terrorist who, with his colleagues, takes a bus (driven by Kate) of school children hostage, and it is left to Ben, the son of an army General, to be the go-between to come to an understanding with them.  I won’t spoil the book as it is one I would definitely recommend to anyone, young or old, but I would definitely warn you that it’s not uplifting and as I said before, he doesn’t hold back.

Book 4: Quiet by Susan Cain

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The fourth and final book of January is also one that we’re doing in the Waterstone’s Croydon Book Club (which I run) and was chosen by one of our lovely regulars – although it has been on my list of books to read since I saw the author’s TED talk online last year, and you eagle-eyed readers might remember me mentioning it in one of my earlier posts.  It’s really an exploration into how introverts fit into a society which seems to only really celebrate those with strong social skills and extroverted personalities.

Near the start of the book, Cain asks us to answer a very short questionnaire to determine whether we are more introverted or extroverted.  I got 19 out of 20, making me introverted – anyone who knows me would probably not say that, but I totally feel that it’s right.  The personality test she also refers to, the Myers-Briggs test, is available to take online on various websites, and I got the same result there, too.  It’s an insightful read into how having ‘salesman’ personality is favoured by most prospective employers, and Cain explores the shift from a ‘Culture of Character’ to a ‘Culture of Personality’, with schools rewarding those who participate in group work confidently and singling out those who prefer individual work as if there’s something wrong with them.  I know I have always preferred working alone, as I find that often there are people who talk for the sake of talking and consider being in a team as a chance to prove themselves in a competition, so I found myself nodding my head and agreeing with so much of what Cain writes about in this book.  I can’t wait to see what my fellow book-club members have to say about it!

So that’s 4 down, 48 to go.  I’ll be back to update in February!

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He Could Get It…Christoph Waltz

Take this Waltz: Christoph is precisely seventeen different kinds of fine

Take this Waltz: It has been scientifically proven that Christoph is precisely seventeen different kinds of fine

WHY? He isn’t a ‘conventional’ Hollywood stunner, but you should never underestimate the power of the silver fox: his Oscar-winning acting talent, the salt n’ pepper beard, the stilted English and his piercing eagle eyes that can open a tin can at twenty paces.

Mr Waltz is an amalgamation of Austrian awesomeness with impeccable dress sense when it counts – and if you’ve heard him speak in his mother tongue (heh) you will agree with me that it sounds a little magnificent.

And if that isn’t enough to rock your socks, you should see your man in a pair of pink trousers.

@thatmissdeen

Aimee Mann at the Royal Festival Hall

I am a HUGE Aimee Mann fan. With music I generally have a broad enjoyment of a range of music and artists with a few favourites and Mann is one of these. She rarely comes to the UK but she was in London for one night yesterday. I went with my Dad (I know, I’m so rock ‘n’ roll it’s hard to handle) because I got him to fall for Mann too. If you haven’t heard any of her music you need to sort your life out. STAT.

Aimee Mann performing on 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'. This is where I first saw her...she later appeared on 'The West Wing' too.

Aimee Mann performing on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’. This is where I first saw her…she later appeared on ‘The West Wing’ too.

She is an Oscar-nominated songwriter (but she lost out to this – criminal) and behind most of the Magnolia (1999) soundtrack. Paul Thomas Anderson even stole the first line of her song Deathly to use in the film.

Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing me again?

Mann started out with the group ‘Til Tuesday in the 1980s. I’m a little ashamed to say that I haven’t listened to any of their music… Mann went solo and has massive critical success, if less commercial success than she deserves. She has released eight albums and one Christmas album. I love them all. I do have a soft spot for Lost in Space because it was the first album of hers I bought, and also Magnolia because it is just incredible.

Aimee Mann

This tour concentrated mostly on her “new” (released last September) album Charmer. I didn’t love the previous album @#%&*! Smilers as much as Lost in Space and The Forgotten Arm (plans afoot for a musical) but Charmer is brilliant. Her lyrics are great, the melodies are brilliant and I love her voice. It’s very individual and you can always tell when you can her Mann singing. I’m just including a range of songs below for you, including Wise Up from Magnolia – the iconic moment when the cast sings along.

I hope this encourages you to listen to her incredible music. And bring Mann back to London! Also, her most recent albums all have the most amazing artwork. Really beautiful. I want prints of the Lost in Space album.

Video for the new single Labrador – I love it. And the video has Jon Hamm. What’s not to love?

Save Me, also from Magnolia, performed at the White House. She’s THAT cool.

The song Video from The Forgotten Arm. The whole album is a concept album about a destructive couple. (That’s why it could be made into a musical. It wouldn’t be a Mamma Mia/Viva Forever/We Will Rock You deal.)

S x

Happy Nolan Day!

While watching last week’s episode (‘Confidence’) I noticed something else that Nolan was wearing…

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We all know that he likes his stripes, but this shirt stood out for me because of the colour scheme (candy stripes of pink and purple – love) and the esteemed pocket square, which doesn’t actually match the rest of his outfit, but it makes a good contrast.

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And another thing that I noticed:

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He was packing toy robots into his suitcase?! Awesome.

Episode 4 (‘Intuition’) is on tonight at 9pm on E4.

Hannah

Red Carpet Watch: The Screen Actors’ Guild Awards

I’m covering for our in-house style guru Sophia today, so I apologise in advance for my weak attempt!

Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables) in Zac Posen

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Has to be one of my favourite looks. She is absolutely stunning, and the colour looks great against her porcelain skin and it brings out her eyes. Love the Lorraine Schwartz pendant too, very striking and unusual. 10/10.

Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) in Giambattista Valli Couture

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A very unusual dress here, and I like it. Her shoes and hair are cute too. And she sets it off nicely with her beautiful smile. Congrats for her SAG win!

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) in Christian Dior

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A very simple, elegant dress, but to be honest I thought she would wear something a little more eye-catching. Nevertheless I really like the style of it, and I also like her hair and delicate jewellery.

Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) in Tom Ford

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A firm favourite here at DTSFT. His suit looks amazing, but would you expect anything less from him? Bowtie’s a little skew-whiff, but the satin suit lapels are a nice size (I hope Sophia’s proud of me!).

Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables) in Hugo Boss

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Gorgeous. This is my favourite suit from the event. I absolutely love the chocolate colour, the texture of the material and, of course, the pocket square (and it matches!). Very well played, sir.

Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

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I couldn’t find who he was wearing exactly, but that doesn’t even matter here. It’s a classic tux and he wears it effortlessly.

Viola Davis in Monique Lhuillier

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Another of my favourites. Viola Davis rarely gets it wrong when it comes to red carpet dresses, and this one makes her look like a goddess. Elegant style, gorgeous colour, and the coral earrings add a nice contrast.

Ellie Kemper (The Office) in Reem Acra

19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Red Carpet

Beautiful dress with lovely detail, and I like the added train, but her hair is a little off-putting. I can’t quite work out the style.

Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) in Christian Dior

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I love everything about this dress, especially the contrasting colours. I also have a thing for dresses with pockets. The bow at the front is cute too. I also love her hair. But I do think some peep toe shoes would have looked better with the dress.

Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) in Zuhair Murad

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A very sophisticated and sexy dress, and the detail stops it from looking too plain. Love it.

Kevin McHale (Glee) in Olima Atelier

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I love the colour of that jacket. I think he could have gone a bit further and worn an entire suit in this colour though, or at least the bow tie.

Naomi Watts (The Impossible) in Marchesa

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She looks stunning in this dress. There’s something very vintage-y and timeless about it that I like, and I think her hair also adds to that.

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) in Alexander McQueen

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Another DTSFT favourite. It’s a very simple dress but very glamourous.

Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) in Chado Ralph Rucci

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She looks like a femme fatale here, especially with that hairstyle and make-up. I think she looks great.

Jon Hamm (Mad Men) in Ermenegildo Zegna and Jennifer Westfeldt in Blumarine

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I don’t even need to say much on his suit here, Jon Hamm always looks flawless, but what I will say is that his hair looks nicely combed! Jennifer Westfeldt looks lovely too. They always manage to look on point when they’re at red carpet events together, don’t they?

Tina Fey (30 Rock) in Oscar de la Renta

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It’s a lovely dress, but I think she played it a bit too safe here. Her hair looks great though.

Javier Bardem (Skyfall) in Gucci

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Handsome fella perfectly executing the red carpet tuxedo. Doesn’t get much hotter than that!

Russell Crowe (Les Miserables)

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I’m going to be honest, I thought Russell Crowe was sexy in Les Miserables, and he looks just as hot on the red carpet with this double buttoned tux (designer unknown – the designers of these suits need to be published more) and cheeky smile.

What were your favourite SAG Awards red carpet looks?

Hannah

He Could Get It…Hugh Jackman

Yes, Hugh. Being fine must be exhausting.

Yes, Hugh. Being fine must be exhausting.

WHY? Huge Hugh Michael Jackman and his blinding smile make it hard to believe that someone as sugary as a marshmallow could be Wolverine.

His “Hecouldgetitableness” peaked around the 2009 Oscars with a blindingly good opening number that had me looking for my underwear when it finished.

If you haven’t seen Les Miserables yet, I suggest you get on it – Hugh does for period clothing what puppy GIFs do for bad moods.

And did I mention he can wear the hell out of a top hat? Can’t wait until he gets his metal claws out again…

7 Things That Would Make ‘Avengers 2’ Worth The Ticket Price Alone

When Sophia alerted the rest of us DTSFT girls to this article, it reminded me that not everyone was happy with ‘Avengers Assemble’, and some internet critics even had suggestions as to how it could have been improved.  Well, while I’m sure that Joss Whedon has spent hours on the internet taking notes from all of those amateur critics and scolding himself for not meeting everyone’s expectations, I think it’s safe to say that he’s going to find this one much more valuable than all the rest.  Why? Because I’m not going to tell him where he went wrong with the first Avengers films, oh no – I’m going to tell him where to go RIGHT in the next one.

7. Big musical numbers

Knowing Whedon and his penchant for musicals – Buffy (Once More With Feeling) and Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog are the two that come to mind for me – it wouldn’t surprise me if this was a route that he took, even though I know he won’t because it wouldn’t make any goddamn sense – not even Whedon could make that work without recycling old material.

If there’s one thing Les Miserables has taught everyone in the last few weeks, it’s that you haven’t really felt anything in a scene until Anne Hathaway has sung into the camera with a shaved head and snotty face, tendons strained to breaking point and those big eyes filled with ACTING TEARS.  But Hathaway belongs to DC now, after her brilliant turn as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, so we’ll just have to make do with musical… er, talent… to be found in the current cast.

From that little video, it looks like RDJ, Evans and Renner could handle the challenge, with Johansson treading water alongside them.  Ruffalo and Gregg don’t seem like they want to do any singing, and Jackson knows his singing is only ever going to be funny.  But Hiddleston… just… every clip of that man singing makes me cringe so hard, I swear I’ve got sciatica now.  I’m surprised that the video above doesn’t feature any solos from Cobie Smulders, who is actually a pretty good singer.  But hey, if the current cast isn’t up to it, I’m sure Whedon will find people to bring on board to help out.  Which brings me to the next point…

6. Cameos from all of Whedon’s pals

Yeah, why not?  Let’s get Neil Patrick Harris involved, because he’s not everywhere right now, is he?  Oh I’m kidding.  Only slightly.

“My diagnosis? Needs more me!”

It’s not wholly incorrect for me to refer to the guest appearances and frequent collaborations of Whedon’s many friends and co-workers as incestuous; I get it, they’re all friends and they like to make wink-to-camera cameos in one another’s projects, but sometimes I feel like we’re being forced to watch a massive orgy on-screen.  And that’s only okay some of the time.

5. A really miserable, sinister story

These days, it seems like a superhero film needs to be seriously dark for it to be a success.  The Avengers managed to avoid falling into this trap – the poster was colourful, the film had some clear comedy moments, and the bad guy is like something out of a pantomime. (Oh no he isn’t…)

Just look at the poster for Man of Steel – it’s essentially the same as the posters for Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and now superhero films seem to all be going for the ‘Dark Knight’ vibe.  Luckily for those of us with a low tolerance for on-screen violence, Avengers managed to amp up the action without having to include the kind of brutal fight scenes and implied violence from the recent Batman films.  We were just presented with a story of a bunch of good guys getting together to defeat the bad guy.  Sometimes a story as simple as that can work really well.  But I think it’s time that Whedon succumbs to the trend and makes the sequel something much darker…

Tony Stark, following the events of Iron Man 3 (which I’m going to assume involves him having a moment of self-doubt and pondering the nature of being a superhero) decides to hang up the suit, while Captain America is no longer a super soldier; having been thrust into the 21st century and forced straight into an intergalactic battle, Steve Rogers is suffering from severe post dramatic stress disorder, haunted by visions of Peggy Carter (so that Hayley Atwell can be in the film, for my homegirl Sophia) and struggling to come to terms with his new life.  Hawkeye and Black Widow have been getting’ reeeeeal busy since everything happened in New York, working on building a family like a good spider would do.  I’m talking at least 15 kids in about 4 years – don’t ask how they manage it, it just happened.  Bruce Banner is doing well too, working as a yoga instructor in downtown New York as a way to maintain his cool and calm demeanour, and Thor is off doing some random shit in Asgard.

But then, something happens to bring them all back together… Hawkeye and three of his 15 children are taken hostage by Flying Tiger (to be played by the CGI tiger from Life of Pi, who in turn will be played by Andy Serkis).  The worst part of it is that all the kids are allergic to cats, making every moment in the company of Flying Tiger a complete and utter living hell.  Black Widow pleads with her Avenger buddies to reassemble and save her boyfriend (yeah, kids out of wedlock, controversial, right?) and beloved children.  They all rush to her aid; in a moment of weakness while trapped in a vault, Tony Stark and Black Widow get down to business, forgetting that Captain America is in the room with them and not realising that Hawkeye is able to watch them via a camera in the vault.  Devastated, Hawkeye gives himself up to Flying Tiger, asking his captor to kill him, which he does without even letting Jeremy Renner – I mean Hawkeye finish his sentence.  Wracked with guilt, Stark vows to help Black Widow raise the children, not realising she has 12 more at home, and in a big showy display of strength and choreographed fighting, the Avengers start to overpower Flying Tiger and his army of kittens.  But halfway through, Captain America has a panic attack and starts picturing Black Widow’s children as kittens, punching and throwing them as he would the kitten soldiers.  Black Widow watches in horror as all her children are massacred by her friend, and deciding that she cannot live with the grief, she throws herself from a tall building and dies instantly.  Stark rushes to her aid only to find that she’s not there, and is about to look for her when Banner (now the Hulk) calls out for his help.  Along with Thor, they defeat Flying Tiger and his army by smashing lots of fire hydrants with Thor’s hammer, flooding the streets and killing not only the kittens but several thousand innocent by-standers too.  They realise that Captain America is missing throughout this, and go to look for him.  They find him, cuddled up to the sprawled, naked and broken body of Black Widow with a bullet through his own head.  Credits roll.

I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going to happen.

4. Zombies

Because LOL LOL ZOMBIES LOLOLOLOL ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE LOL LOL

Because LOL LOL ZOMBIES LOLOLOLOL ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE LOL LOL

Because these days, everything seems to have zombies – as if it makes it better.

3. An English villain

Tom Hiddleston’s turn as Loki was admittedly fantastic, and I must say that it was a bold move for a Hollywood action movie to feature a somewhat effeminate, intellectual British man as the villain.

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Let’s have more of that, guys.  Real original!

2. Found footage

The only thing that was missing from the first Avengers film was this very under-used filming technique.  In fact, the sequel could really just be found footage from somebody during the attacks on the city from the first film.  Hell, I’m pretty sure that the sequel could even be a crossover with another ‘attack on New York’ film…

fff

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It would be both imaginative and totally understandable.

1. Joseph Gordon Levitt

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Maybe he could turn up at the end as, like, the new Hawkeye.  Ooh, or the new Coulson.  Oooh!  Wait!  He could just turn up in a waistcoat and play the ukelele with Zooey Deschanel at the end while people burst into a ‘spontaneous’ dance routine.  Hey, HEY OR – OR – OR he could be, like, Captain America’s grandson, or oh my god he could be Bucky or JUST GET HIM INTO THE FILM SOMEHOW BECAUSE HE NEEDS TO BE EVERYWHERE.