Downton Abbey the Movie

Downton Abbey the movie is a beautifully filmed 2-hour bit of escapism. Gorgeous English landscapes, a magnificent mansion of a house bathed in history, fabulous costumes and loads of accents to feast your ears on. It’s 1927 and they’ve been expecting me.

Is it possible to follow the film if you haven’t watched the show? I’d say yes. The story is very neatly wrapped up, without getting tangled in itself. Otherwise a bit of Wikipedia reading and some wonderful behind-the-scenes interviews on the Downton Abbey YouTube channel are both very helpful if you want to know more about the characters and their backgrounds. The Internet has your back.

Dame Maggie Smith is unforgettable as ever, playing Lady Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham. I bow. She both scared and surprised me way back in the day in The Secret Garden, delighted as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter movies, just to name a few examples, and she’s given us an array of quotable zingers from Lady Violet.

I’m not a die-hard fan and I haven’t seen all the seasons of the show, but I have a lot of respect for the many examples of impressive acting in there. Step aside from the inevitable (and, of course, necessary) discussions about what life in England was like back then in terms of class, society, British aristocracy, women’s rights, equality, and it’s still a vast collection of stories about people and family.

The Woman in Black

October is a great month for ghost stories. The leaves change color and then start to fall, bare tree branches stand out against the sky, cloudy weather sets in, the days become shorter and it gets dark earlier – a perfect set for a mysterious, even spooky atmosphere. You just want to either curl up with a scary book or watch a movie with plenty of suspense in it. The Woman in Black, originally a novel by Susan Mill published in 1983, is a great example of a story with spine-tingling thrills of terror that don’t leave you for at least two weeks (speaking from personal experience).

This blog post isn’t about the book, though, which I have yet to read. One Friday evening I was sitting in the audience of the English Theatre of Hamburg with two friends. The lights went out, two actors appeared and the stage adaptation of The Woman in Black began.

I had managed to stay away from spoilers and had only read snippets from a few reviews which all repeated the play was terrifying, chilling, scared audiences everywhere etc. To be honest, for the first half hour I was a bit sceptical and wondered whether I’d manage to get at all absorbed in the story, since there was quite a lot of narration going on. But there was no need to worry.

The moment of transition to the action unfolding, rather than being remembered or talked about, was hard to pinpoint later, and I was on the edge of my seat (at times also shrinking back into it), waiting with everyone else when the woman in black would appear next. This play is also yet another good example of the impact of a well-crafted, well-played wordless role. The story becomes increasingly spooky and atmospheric, using lights and sound to their fullest advantage, coiling tension like a rope. We’re told at the beginning about an audience using their imagination, but I don’t need to. I’m completely drawn in.

What many might remember when seeing the title, and which I did as well, is the 2012 movie adapation with a very telegenic, fresh after Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe.

Which is scarier? The play or the movie? Or the book? Take your pick. Don’t forget the 1989 film version as well.

ME! By Taylor Swift (feat. Brendan Urie) – Top 5 Inspiring Moments

Much has been said, written and shared about this already, but the internet is forever and so is music, plus I prefer to let the storm die down a little (not that it really ever does in the case of the undeniable powerhouse that is Taylor Swift), and then pop out (no pun intended) my own musings after what might have been dozens of repeated perusals of whatever content is occupying my brain at the moment. And after all, to quote ME!…

I promise that nobody’s gonna love you like me

Yes, it’s poppy, catchy, colorful, possibly campy, easy to sing along to and does everything a successful pop song should, without sounding manufactured. It also echoes my support of spelling being fun. So among the many moments we can single out and scrutinize to our heart’s content, which 5 would I pick as especially inspiring? Well…

1. Taylor Swift is the mistress of transformation and she just goes for it, doing whatever she wants in expressing her creative ideas. Speak French in a totally unexpected acting scene at the beginning of the video? Mais oui! Insert some laugh-out-loud, disarmingly dorky comedy? Sure!

2. All that psychedelic, glittering dance glamour, bring it on.

3. Over-the-top theatrical romance that concludes with gifting a kitten (of course).

4. Strutting along in a pretty gown on your way to an epic musical flash mob in the street is always a good idea.

5. And of course staging the color-soaked twilight ending of your mini-musical extravaganza with huge splatters of paint raining down from the sky as you and another lovely gown become works of art.

As of right now the music video for ME! has over 164 million views, having broken the VEVO record for speediest leap to 100 million. The thoughtfully composed lyric video (for us written word and stationery geeks) is worth a look as well, currently standing at an also impressive 4.5 million views.

 

Kate and William Wedding Nostalgia

Yeah, yeah, I’m one of those people. Deal with it.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recently celebrated 8 years since they got married and seeing all the predictable photo galleries being pulled up online sent me on my own small trip down memory lane.

At the time I was I was doing an internship at an online women’s magazine which proved to be educational in many ways, and also provided valuable interactions with supervisors that I still remember clearly, and fondly. It was a special, formative time for me, and while I knew that when it ended, I would be facing most likely several months of looking for my first post-graduation job, I enjoyed my internship to the fullest.

April rolled around and everyone was excited about “the big day”. While I was definitely not a lazy intern, I won’t lie that I was more than pleased when I was told I was allowed to watch the Royal Wedding right there in the office. Basically all day long. My supervisors and colleagues had to work – tweeting, writing, editing photos, you name it. Meanwhile, I sat back and watched Kate Middleton arrive at Westminster Abbey, hoping all the while that our internet connection wouldn’t break.

When she exited the car and turned around, smiling, to wave in that first amazing moment, the whole office collectively sighed. I was sitting right opposite my boss and as I emitted my own “Ohhh”, searching for words, she quietly said, “Yes, she’s beautiful.”

Besides the excitement of watching an event I knew was being followed internationally, I suppose it also offered some natural respite from whatever sad things were going on in the world at that time, and of those there are always more than plenty. Aside from the pomp, the glamour, the jewels, the staggering media coverage all over the world, I think the refreshing part was that there were plenty of moments watching the bride in particular (and as a woman, I guess I looked  more at her than at anyone else at that wedding) that were relatable. I had been to several lovely weddings and seen my own sisters become brides, looked at various wedding pictures from my family – regardless of circumstances, that special bridal glow was the same everywhere.

I can’t not quote something about the Duchess of Cambridge’s unforgettable wedding gown, and Megan Hess said it especially well in her beautiful book The Dress. 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion: “Kate’s wedding dress was always going to have an impact on style history – seared into our minds and inspiring thousands of knock-offs. Sarah Burton from Alexander McQueen designed the chosen gown, which, with its full skirt and long sleeves, was inevitably traditional.” Additionally, one commentator from this clip of the BBC coverage of Kate Middleton’s arrival expresses it accurately too: “I am beside myself, this is such a fashion moment, I can’t tell you <…> It’s exquisite. She…” Trailing off, she stops for a while, leaving us to fill in the blanks ourselves, and then she simply concludes with “That is a fabulous dress.” True!

 

 

 

You’ve Got The Power, Agathe Bauer

“There are whole websites devoted to what people heard wrongly in a song,” was what I started to say during a routine German workday lunch, when one of my buddies interjected, “Yes! Do you know Agathe Bauer?”

I was confused at first, because what I thought she said, in a mix of German and English, was “I got a Bauer”, which translates as “I got a farmer”.  The irony is that Bauer is also one of the most typical German surnames ever. Meanwhile, “Agathe Bauer” is apparently what scores of Germans heard instead of “I got the power” in the 1989 hit The Power by Snap! The cycle continues! Predictably, the gif inserted at this point of my post is…

After  I learned this piece of information, I couldn’t stop imagining what the fictitious Agathe Bauer would look like and making up what she did in life. I think she’s a sturdy German woman who lives on a farm with her three grown sons, and she wants them all to get married. But most likely none of the candidates the sons brought home would be good enough for her, my friend added firmly, and I felt like agreeing. I think that besides investing her thoughts and emotions in her sons’ future, Agathe would be great at making jam and would be very hands-on at the farm.

Nationally songs where people heard something wrong are affectionately referred to as Agathe Bauer songs and the interpretations are endless.  I would still like to add, though, that while I still have plenty to contribute myself, I never joined the Starbucks lovers team. One thing in life I can be certain of.

 

Chapters: My Growth as a Writer by Lois Duncan

Lois Duncan is one of my favourite writers and I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned her on my blog yet! It’s time.

Last year I was fired up and researching whether writers I loved had written autobiographies or memoirs, hoping very much that they had, because one is curious about the person behind the magic pages that pulled you in, about their insights on writing and life, the experiences that shaped them, and you’re expecting their memoirs to be as engaging as their fiction. I don’t rush with this, because I’m usually involved in some extensive reading first, especially if the writer has been around a while and achieved a lengthy bibliography. Then there’s some digesting and thinking time after finishing a novel. It’s almost like I need to sit with the characters I met for a while before I move on to words directly from the life of the person who created them.

Chapters: My Growth as a Writer is a gem for many reasons. One of them is that between Lois Duncan’s memories and accounts of her writing, which are all absorbing in their own right, the book is basically an anthology of her riveting short stories (none of which I had read before!). She uses them to illustrate her growth and career, and while each point she makes comes across loud and clear, the stories themselves are a fantastic read, showcasing the incredible talent evident since Lois Duncan’s early years. They contain that unique suspense building up from the everyday experiences we can all relate to that is characteristic of her novels. What will happen? Will it be something bad? are the questions we keep asking ourselves when we read.

Visions of a woman’s life in a 1950s-60s America emerge, as a teenager, a young woman, a wife, a mother. The expectations, the preconceived societal ideas, the sexism, the condescension, the inevitable revolt against attempts, however small, to diminish a creative identity – unfortunately, some of it still exists today. One scene in which Lois Duncan describes her statement that she is a self-employed professional writer, while her conversation partner firmly insists it’s a hobby and not a “real” job is simply priceless.

Just like her novels, this memoir is a reminder that Lois Duncan was so much more than, as often mentioned in news headlines, the author of I Know What You Did Last Summer. She was a gifted writer, an attentive and precise observer and an amazing, engaging storyteller. She drew on and never disregarded her own experiences, more than proving the “Write what you  know” maxim, and she worked hard. She knew how to tap into that which scared us, young and old, what made us laugh in-between and how to grasp a life-changing moment, whether big or small, then put all this into written words.

13 Going on 30 Nostalgia

It’s 15 years old?!

“Thirty, flirty and thriving!” Great mild tongue twister and English class exercise, by the way. This heartwarming movie is, to this day, a wonderful story about not forgetting what your childhood and youth bring to your life for years to come, and what it means to be not just grown up, but mature.

But this fifteenth birthday has me feeling sentimental, so I’m reeling off my favourite things about 13 Going on 30.

Listening to Love is a Battlefield by Pat Benatar will forever be linked to Jenna’s slumber party dance-off.

Sometimes the truth needs to be said in no uncertain terms, without any embellishment, like kids tend to do.

One of the best tear-jerking mom wisdom moments ever.

Bitches are forever, and just because you’ve moved on doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you!

Sure we’re crying because we’re happy!

Here’s to the next 15 years!