Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

And the Oscar goes to…

In cinema, Hollywood on February 28, 2011 at 11:43 am

I finally got around to watching True Grit last night. What a surprise pleasure! The Coen Brothers’ tale of retribution was beautifully performed by Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and my new heroine Hailee Steinfeld. I’d never heard of the 14-year-old actress until I saw her in the trailer for True Grit, but after last night, I think she’s a real star in the making.

Her portrayal of firm but feisty, no nonsense teenager Mattie Ross really impressed me, and after two short hours, I was really backing her, along with Helena Bonham Carter, for the Best Supporting Actress accolade at the Oscars… sadly, I was too tired to stay up and follow them live, so I had to wait until this morning to see the results.

And how VERY proud I am to see that The King’s Speech has won four Oscars – and very well deserved they are. I got teary eyed when the wonderful movie did so well at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs earlier this year, so for everyone associated with the film – and especially Colin Firth, who missed out to Jeff Bridges last year –  to achieve the most famous statuettes in the industry, brought on a veritable fountain of happy tears from me as I caught up on the accounts this morning.

As it happens, Hailee and Helena missed out on the best supporting actress statuette to Melissa Leo, who played Alice Ward in The Fighter, while her co-star Christian Bale picked up yet another award for his portrayal of her crack-addicted son Dicky Eklund.

I’m a bit ‘Meh’ about this. I liked The Fighter, I thought it was a great, emotive interpretation of a true story, and I thought that both Leo and Bale put in excellent performances as the destructive, unpleasant, albeit well-meaning family of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), blinded by long ago successes. Bale is brilliant in every role he plays – although I can’t get my head around the ridiculously gruff tone his Batman feels the need to use, it’s got to hurt – but I can’t accept he was more deserving of the award that Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech.

But The Academy didn’t ask my opinion, so there you go.

One film I’ve yet to watch is The Social Network, I might make that a project for this coming weekend. To secure as many nominations as it did, it’s obviously a seriously heavyweight piece of cinema. I think I’m prevented from watching it through sheer jealousy that I didn’t think up Facebook myself.

As everyone predicted, Natalie Portman held aloft her Oscar for the outstanding performance in Black Swan, which I still think was breathtaking.

The one movie I think wound up in the shade somewhat, despite it equalling The King’s Speech in terms of silverware last night, is Inception. I love Leonardo DiCaprio, I think he’s one of the best actors of our time, and Inception made my brain hurt, it was so complex and clever. While everyone’s raving (rightly) about The King’s Speech picking up four Oscars, it’s worth noting that Inception also bagged four, for cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing and – no shock here – visual effects. While the Oscars aren’t as high profile as Best Actor, Best Director, Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, they were absolutely vital to make the movie the jaw-dropping piece of cinema that it was. I think sometimes we don’t pay enough attention to the ‘behind the scenes’ and technical awards when the biggest blockbusters all too often rely on their spectacular effects to draw us in.

I think the key thing about this year’s success stories is that most of the films were very close knit and very intense – Natalie Portman was in pretty much every scene in Black Swan, there was no respite for her as the protagonist, and she utterly immersed herself in the part. The King’s Speech was, for 90 per cent of the film, two men in a room filming almost painful scenes, no special effects to deter from the sheer talent on screen, and as I understand it, The Social Network is similar in that ‘two guys in a room’ description.

It makes a real change from last year, when the little blue men of the massive budget 3D Avatar, with its explosions, effects and fantasy was the big hitter.

Bring on the 84th Academy Awards in 2012 – here’s to more great acting and more British success – though how we’ll manage that now the Coalition Government has chosen to close down the UK Film Council (who enabled The King’s Speech to be made) is anyone’s guess.

Not fully up to speed on last night’s events?  Here is the full list of nominees and winners.



The art of eating like a Frenchwoman

In book, diet, food, France, health on February 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I came across an interesting book recently and I had to buy it. Written by Mireille Guiliano, the CEO of Champagne Veuve Clicquot, French Women Don’t Get Fat claims to recondition eating habits so that you think and eat like a slender French mademoiselle. She has a point, I mused. On my trips to France, I only recall well-dressed, glamorous, slender ladies, and if this was going to help me join their ranks, well it was worth a shot.

So far, it’s making a lot of sense. Mme Guiliano is quite clear – the reason so many people are overweight is due to bad habits and big portions – shovelling food in while watching TV, while working at the laptop, grabbing breakfast on the go or by missing breakfast altogether and reaching for quick-fix snacks.

Her recommendation is to keep a food diary for three weeks so that you can spot patterns and ‘offenders’ in your diet, before undertaking a two day ‘Leek Soup’ preparation. You then enter the ‘recasting’ period – three months of changing your eating habits gradually.

I’m not yet half way through the book but I can see a great deal of logic in Mme Guiliano’s approach. Some have criticised her for being arrogant and accusatory, but as someone who is not overweight, but striving for improvement, I know I’m guilty of a lot of the ‘offences’ she flags up. My learnings so far, which I plan to start regulating pretty soon, are…

Turn meal times into an experience: Set the table, use glassware, napkins, candles. Make sitting down to a meal an enjoyable experience to look forward to. Take care of presentation, use more than one plate to choose from. Eat a little of each food, on its own, first, before you mix the flavours. Enjoy the flavours. Put your cutlery down between mouthfuls. Chew. Taste. Savour.  It doesn’t take a genius to see how this could work on so many levels – if you’ve gone to the trouble to make up a table for dinner, you’ll want to spend longer there, not wolf your food down without really tasting it. I do love creating ‘restaurant’ style table settings, but it’s something I only do for guests, yet sure enough, we’ll sit at the table and chat and eat for ages, rather than eating a whole meal in less than ten minutes. I can’t even remember what I had for lunch today, but I know I ate it at my computer. It might seem daft to make an effort for one person, but it’s something I’m going to try next week and see if it works. Mme Guiliano says TV, newspapers, books – multi tasking of any kind at mealtimes is not allowed, enabling you to concentrate on what you’re eating and how it satisfies you.

Shop for fresh produce every couple of days rather than doing a bumper monthly shop: This means you’ll pay more attention to the type of food you choose and its quality.

Shop at markets rather than supermarkets, and look for in-season foods: This is all about the quality of the food we eat. Looking, inspecting, choosing plump, rosy tomatoes rather than pre-packed versions. That, teamed with the added time you’ll be spending eating and enjoying the food, will, she claims, make you begin to appreciate quality over quantity and enjoy the preparation of a meal to savour more.

Drink more water – a big glass before bed and a big glass in the morning, in addition to your existing daily intake. We all know we’re meant to drink at least eight glasses of water, but many of us don’t. By adding just those two glasses will help ward off dehydration and aid well being – all part of recognising what our body needs as opposed to what it doesn’t.

So far, I’ve gathered that French women don’t forbid themselves from indulgences, but they do counteract them. Mme Guiliano says that if we want dessert and wine with dinner, of course we must have it, but try to resist the bread basket, or ensure you do 30 minutes’ exercise the following day.

Without keeping a diary for three weeks, I know what my ‘offenders’ are. Bread will always be a massive draw for me, but according to this guide, that doesn’t mean I can’t have it, it just means I should choose really beautiful, fresh bakery bread and limit my portions so that it becomes a luxurious treat that I’ll savour, rather than eat bog-standard slices of everyday off-the-shelf bread. Sounds damn good to me. Mme Guiliano says that if someone eats four slices a day, maybe they cut it back to three, then two. Eventually, she says, I may discover I only really need one to feel satisifed.

The same rule applies to chcolate. Mme G says that instead of compromising on taste and scoffing mediocre bars, choosing a small piece of really excellent quality chocolate and savouring each bite, will go a long way – that much I do agree with; my Dad gave me a box of miniature Green & Black’s bars in my Christmas stocking and one of those tiny 15g bars lasted through an entire movie, while a bar grabbed in the supermarket or petrol station would last a couple of minutes.

I think it’ll take a bit of discipline, but I think if I stick to it, I could make some pretty significant changes once I’ve finished this book. I’ll keep you posted…