Favourites of the Month

Favourites of the Month: January

Hi guys! 2017 started very well with a month of January rich in discoveries and I have four favourites to share with you: two movies, a photography exhibition and – what a surprise! – a podcast.

Whiplash (Movie)

I have recently watched Whiplash, Damien Chazelle‘s second movie, which was released in 2014 (thanks Netflix), and I absolutely loved it. This drama movie won a bunch of awards and was unanimously acclaimed by critics when it was released, so chances are that you have already seen or at least heard about it but I HAD TO to mention it here. Whiplash narrates the story of Andrew Neiman, a first-year jazz student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York whose objective is to become a professional drummer. The movie focuses on Andrew’s complicated relationship with famous and very demanding conductor Terence Fletcher after Andrew joins his studio band. Throughout the movie, the somewhat sado-maso relationship between Andrew and Terence escalates until it reaches a point of no return. It is a pretty dark movie, which, in my opinion, deals quite subtlety with several themes such as willpower and determination, dreams, abuse and self-abuse. And, of course, jazz. Last but not least, the incontestable strength of Whiplash is its cast: Miles Teller (who plays Andrew) and J.K. Simmons (who plays Terence Fletcher) are very impressive in their respective role.

La La Land (Movie)

That’s the point where this Favourite of the Month is starting to look like a Damien Chazelle favourites… La La Land is the movie everyone is talking about at the moment and I feel a need to apologize for my lack of originality here. La La Land has been so hyped that I was afraid to be disappointed – I wasn’t. For those who have spent the last couple of months in a cave, La La Land is a romantic musical drama movie by Damien Chazelle, which has won a bunch of awards and which stars Ryan Gossling and Emma Stone.

The plot is hyper simple: Mia and Sebastian both live in Los Angeles, trying to achieve their dream. Mia wants to be an actress and Sebastian, a professional piano player, wants to open his own jazz club. They meet and fall in love. The depiction of this couple felt very authentic to me. We are not in the depiction of the stereotyped love story, far from it. The fact that both of these characters have very strong dreams/goals in life adds another layer to their relationship. The character of Mia (Emma Stone, how come I hadn’t seen a movie with this actress before? I am in love!) is especially well-developed in my opinion. She is a strong and complex female character and her struggle to find her first role as an actress and to be able to do what she likes is a theme that absolutely resonated with me (and it is not only depicted in a dramatic way, some casting scenes are actually hilarious). The movie has a very polished aesthetics and I was afraid that this would let me insensitive but this wasn’t the case because I felt that it really served the themes and characters. And, last but not least, the movie’s soundtrack (composed by Justin Hurwitz) is absolutely wonderful/stunning/beautiful, there are not enough words to describe it.

Stuff You Should Know (Podcast)

Stuff You Should Know is a very interesting and funny podcast. It is hosted by Josh Clark and Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant, two writers for the HowStuffWorks website who respectively worked as journalist-editor and screenwriter. The principle of this podcast is pretty self-explanatory: each episode explains a specific topic. The topics covered by this podcast are really wide, to say the least – from neuroscience and psychology to art, history, sex and animals (to mention only a few topics). This is probably the reason why I feel like I will never get bored of this podcast and I’m sure neither will you. You are always sure to find a topic that will be of interest to you, no matter what you are into. The episodes are relatively long (about one hour or so) and extremely well-researched. Josh Clark and Charles W. Bryant really reaches the heart of the matter in a simple and entertaining way and I think that they do a great popularization work. Without realizing it, you’re getting an understanding of some pretty complex issues, topics or concepts. Thanks to Josh and Chuck, I learnt, for example, How Pacifism Works (And Could It?)What’s the deal with Baby Boomers?, How Feeding Babies Works: The Breast (and How Feeding Babies Works: The Bottle) and How Freak Shows Worked. If you want to feel smarter, go check out this podcast!

European Wildlife Photographer of The Year (Exhibition)

Finally, I went to see a really nice (and free) photography exhibition in January. This exhibition, hosted by the Horniman Museum, in London, presented all the winning photographs of the 2015 European Wildlife Photographer of The Year Competition. I don’t have too much to say about this exhibition except that a lot of photographs were featured and that these photographs were simply amazing. Below are a couple of photographs from this exhibition that I really liked (unfortunately very few pictures from the exhibition are available online and I couldn’t find my favourite ones). By the way, this exhibition is not on anymore but the Horniman Museum is a really cool museum which hosts some great exhibitions so I would recommend you to go visit it if you’re in London.

‘Lightness’, Matteo Lonati.

‘Missed’, Marco Urso

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  • Reply Jenny 20 February 2017 at 19 h 54 min

    I absolutely love ‘Whiplash’, I think I need to watch it again soon! It’s worth it for the music alone. I didn’t realise that ‘Whiplash’ and ‘La La Land’ were both directed by the same person – I’m more inclined to watch ‘La La Land’ now (I’ve avoided it so far because I’m generally not a fan of musicals).

    If you haven’t already seen it, I’d recommend the 2014 film ‘Birdman’. It has a similarly dark tone (but maybe a bit more so) and is sort of from the other angle, in that it’s about an ageing actor trying to prove himself rather than the up-and-coming performer of ‘Whiplash’. It has a really good percussion-based soundtrack and is shot in a really interesting way that makes it seem like the film was done in one long take, with no cuts. Oh, and it’s got Emma Stone in it too! 🙂

    • Reply ameliereadingit 20 February 2017 at 21 h 43 min

      ‘Birdman’ seems so interesting! Thanks a lot for the recommendation, I’m definitely going to watch it very soon 🙂

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