9 Things for 9 Years – Things I’ve Learned on Musings’ 9th Birthday!

Oh yes, Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug turned 9 this past week! How exciting is that?

Despite having been blogging for 20 years this year (omg!), this particular little home-of-my-thoughts has been going for 9 whole years. Other than my marriage I think this is the longest I’ve ever stuck at anything!

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To mark this momentous occasion, I thought I’d share 9 important things I’ve learned during this time!

  1. No one will understand what Blogging is or why you do it, unless they blog themselves or read blogs. Even if it’s friends and family you’re talking to, they just won’t ‘get it’. You can say it’s your hobby until you’re blue in the face but unless you’re telling them you’ve taken up martial arts or cross-stitch, you’re going to be talking to a brick wall. If they read blogs or blog themselves, on the other hand, then you’re golden.
  2. Blogging isn’t for fame or free stuff. There are mega downsides to both of them. You get fame and you get bashed for being fake (there are plenty of big bloggers giving the honest ones a bad name), you get trolled and you find yourself having to make a choice between staying true to yourself or getting the big deal and engagement. And then if you’re getting loads of free stuff you feel like you’re working all the time. You might get to go to great places but it’s not to relax, it’s to work and portray the perfect perspective for the brand, or try out 50 face creams in one week and still try to keep your skin feeling tip-top.
  3. You have to write for you, and only you. I don’t have the biggest readership (HI!) but I appreciate each and everyone who does read (HI again!). But I can’t focus on engagement stats or let them get me down if they’re not what I expect. Sure it can be hard to put your heart into an article for it to be swept away in the masses of mediocre new Urban Decay palette reviews, but I always remind myself, I’ve written everything I write just for me.
  4. Blogging can be daunting. From month to month you can be posting away and all of a sudden you can get contacted by 5 or 6 different PR companies all asking you if you’d like to post for them. It’s fantastic to be wanted, but the pressure can be huge, especially if the what you’re receiving in return is hefty. My aim in writing a blog isn’t for money, however when you’re representing a brand in what you write, you want to be as honest and professional as you can be.
  5. You can start to see things a little skewed. I’m constantly seeing people talk about spending money on props for photos, going to specific cafes for brunch because it’s the place all the ‘bloggers’ hang out. I always keep it real with my blogs. If I blog about a place I’ve been it’s because I was going there for some reason anyway, not just to blog about it. I don’t think I’ve ever bought something for prop’s sake, so I can photograph it.
  6. Never under-estimate the power of community. About 2 years ago, I jumped into the blogging twitter community. It’s changed a lot since then, but back then the sense of support and community was epic. I’ve met some amazing people through it, and even though we all seem to have drifted from twitter slightly, I still check in with them from time to time.
  7. Don’t feel you have to utilise every single platform out there. I dabbled with YouTube and though my most popular video currently has 5.2k views and counting (what?) I felt like it wasn’t for me. It was forced, and doing it for the sake of doing it. I enjoy watching my Disney World video, but at the time I was too self-conscious to film properly, and I never felt like it was worth my while to overcome that. I do quite enjoy instagram stories though, and who knows what will occur with IGTV!
  8. If you get writer’s block, don’t force it. Sit that one out. Only write when you have something worth writing, otherwise you’ll fall into that trap of putting out content you’re not 100% happy with. It’s not worth compromising!
  9. And I’ll finish with the most important one: I’m still into blogging for the reason I started. I wanted to write and put my thoughts out. Again, I feel like sometimes it’s more valuable to me if I think no one has actually read what I’ve written, since I’m such an introvert. But it’s nice to know it’s out there!

So those are my 9 things for 9 years! Who knew I’d continue to have the momentum to keep it going for all this time?! Not me!

If you’ve been reading for a long time, short time, or this is your first time here, Thank You so much for popping by! And I hope you’ll stick around 🙂

 

Screen Time and Awesome Things I’ve Seen!

It’s great fun to book an awesome holiday. It’s great fun to book awesome holidays for the next two years running…. but that also means you have to save up to pay for all that awesomeness…. which results in a A LOT of Netflix time.

I don’t mind this. I’m a self-confessed homebody and since I love my house, there’s nothing I like better than the idea of staying inside it for days on end.

So, I wanted to share with you some great TV and Films I’ve seen over the last few weeks, that you might want to watch too.

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The Staircase, available on Netflix, is a true-crime documentary and is apparently the doc that inspired the creators of Making a Murderer. Originally made as an 8 part series for the BBC in 2003 it follows the crime and trial of a man accused of killing his wife, who was found at the bottom of a staircase in their home. There were then 2 more episodes made in 2013 and then 3 more for Netflix have just been released along with the episodes prior. It’s a gripping series and if you like crime documentaries then you should definitely watch it. I have since found out, a whole strand of theory has been removed from the series by Netflix, which was originally shown and is now not there. Apparently a separate episode dedicated to this theory will be released at some point by Netflix. A strange move, I think, but I’ll be interested to see that, as and when it emerges.

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I’ve been enjoying watching new films, recently. Since I don’t often go to the cinema, I have been waiting for a whole bunch of films to arrive on streaming services so I can finally watch them. Mother! is one Gary didn’t really want to see but it intrigued me so much. I wouldn’t say the film is enjoyable, but it’s entertaining. I think it’s clever, others feel it’s self-indulgent of the director and egotistical. It reminded me of classic horrors of the 1970s. Frightening but not because something has been put in front of you. Comparisons with Rosemary’s Baby are probably the closest you’ll get to knowing what you’re getting into if you are deciding to watch this. It’s intense, and stressful and echoed anxiety dreams I used to (and still sometimes do) get when I worked in retail and dreamt I couldn’t get customers out at the end of the night, and somehow they kept coming in. It’s not for you if you’re easily stressed out. A lot of the reviews I read after watching the film were from people who were angry at the film. I guess it stirs up emotion and I think that’s exactly its aim.

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Having just said I never go to the cinema, I’m going to contradict myself now. I saw Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in 4DX at our local cinema. We’re really lucky to have a 4DX screen as I believe there’s only 2 in the UK and only 1 in the US (that might be wrong, but I know there’s only a handful in the world). I love watching action films in 4DX. It feels like you’re on a theme park ride for the full length of the movie. I saw the first Jurassic World in 4DX and I’m pretty sure that was my first 4DX experience, so I had to see this one in the same way! I really enjoyed the film. It was suspenseful, exciting, good storyline which followed on well from the last. No Jurassic Park film will be as good as the original, but they’re doing pretty well with these last two!

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And to finish, I’ll talk about a show that’s completely blown me away. I’d avoided watching The Handmaid’s Tale because I was concerned I’d be upset due to the subject matter. But then a colleague said she’d been watching it and was enjoying it so much that I just had to try it out. I already knew Elisabeth Moss from The West Wing and then Mad Men, but she’s so incredible in this. The show took my breath away to the point that I binged the whole first season in a single weekend, and managed to catch up with the second season that has started week by week. There are points in this show that are so powerful that I’m sad I’ve seen it because I want to watch it for the first time again. One of the scenes in the first episode of season 2, along with the music choice they made, was SO powerful I could have sobbed. I’m so glad I started watching!

So, those are the things I’ve been enjoying watching of late. I’m sure I’ll share more with you as time progresses – it’s a great way to save on those pennies! What have you been watching, that you’ve loved?

Shock, Horror – It’s my May Favourites!

Yes, I know I haven’t done one of these in a LONG time, but I thought since I have been enjoying a couple of things this month and seen some awesome TV I wanted to share, I might as well do this!

I’ll start with a few beauty items I’ve been liking, all of which are re-purchases from some time or another, but I’m so glad I re bought them!

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I earned some Body Shop points I needed to use up, and being the skin-flint I am, I didn’t want to spend over the £5 I’d earned. So I decided to pick this shower gel up. When I was a kid I was given one of those Body Shop minis sets for Christmas, and all the items were Satsuma scented. I loved it but for some reason have never gone back to the scent. Now I have this shower gel, I’m loving being transported back to that time when I was a child. It’s the exact same smell, and it’s so fresh and citrusy, but also comforting! Perfect for the milder weather, too.

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I re purchased the NYX Dark Circle Concealer Corrector, since the pot I’d been using was about 2 years old and I wasn’t near finishing it. I figured it was a bit gross to keep using it, and at £7 it wasn’t going to break the bank to buy a new one. I’ve actually been wearing this exclusively under my eyes in the warmer weather. It covers my dark circles enough, but since I’m no longer wearing foundation it works well with the natural skin look and actually looks like I’m not wearing anything under my eyes. It creases ever so slightly, but barely and not every time I use it.

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I use the second lightest shade (I suggest you go one darker than you would normally for concealer) and the peach tones work against the shade of my under eyes perfectly.

My only gripe is that the pot is near impossible to get your fingers into if you have any kind of nail growth…. but we persevere!

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This Vaseline spray moisturiser is something I used to use a few years back, and is perfect for a quick top-up of moisture on the legs without the stickiness or heaviness of a cream moisturiser. I re-purchased it for this summer, since I’d noticed my legs were feeling a little dry when I jumped out of the bath. I love how easy this is to spray, rub in and go. The can works upside down too! The cap also has a convenient lock so you can pack it, without worrying it will spray in your bag. And it smells amazing!

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The Too Faced Peaches and Cream range launched last year in the US (around September) and was meant to launch here in November. When I was there last October I picked up a couple of bits from the range, and my primer decided to run out last week. Which was handy since the range actually only launched here this month, for some reason!

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The range is a Debenham’s exclusive at the moment, and our local store didn’t stock it but thankfully the Birmingham one does, so my husband picked this up for me when he was there for work! This Primed and Peachy primer is very expensive – £27 for a primer is crazy. But it’s so good I will pay it….. This primer is cooling, smoothing and mattifying. It keeps my skin matte all day, which is impressive as I am oily and usually need to blot part way through the day. The smell is nice, peach and sweet fig, and it comes out tinted but that pretty much goes away as soon as it’s smoothed on the skin.

The packaging is a tube with a pump, which means you can control how much you use, but also means you don’t know when it’s about to run out, which is annoying. I’ll be picking a backup of these up, when I’m in the US later in the year!

So, that’s all for the beauty bits, but I wanted to share a couple of TV shows I’ve enjoyed this month.

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If you enjoyed watching Girls then you’ll most likely enjoy SMILF. It’s an 8 episode series, each episode is about half an hour, and it’s very good. It’s a humorous drama about a young single mother and her life in Boston. The cast is great, the kid is an amazing actor and it’s just very interesting. It’s also fairly explicit so don’t watch it if you’re easily offended!

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The other show I’ve been really loving is Barry. Bill Hader has written, directed and stars in Barry about a hitman who discovers acting and becomes conflicted. This is dark and funny and I’m really enjoying watching it!

So that’s everything I wanted to share with you! I can’t guarantee another favourites post any time soon…. but who knows!

Slow Sunday Book Club: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I really enjoy reading, and I just don’t do it enough any more. So when I saw Allie at Rush and Teal introduce the Slow Sunday Book Club to her newsletter ‘Slow Sunday Club’, I figured what a great opportunity to start reading again.

I find the hardest part about reading, other than finding the time, is choosing a book. And when it’s chosen for you, you often find you’ll read something you wouldn’t otherwise select.

The idea behind this book club is to deliberately find a reason to put down your phone, switch off the tv and take some time doing something more relaxing and a little less taxing on your brain and your eyes. I’m all for it!

So the first book chosen was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I’d not heard of it, but found it available cheaply on Amazon so I figured I’d go ahead and jump in.

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As much as I’m not going to describe the plot of this book, I’m going to be discussing parts of the story and my thoughts on the writing throughout this post, so if you haven’t read this book and don’t want to be spoiled then I’d suggest clicking off here. I’ll see you in my next post.

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Firstly, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read. It’s an easy read, despite my having to google the meaning of quite a few words used. Eleanor has quite the vocabulary.

Since I didn’t know anything at all about this book before I started reading, I actually found the reading process very similar to when I read Room. I went into that story blind too. I enjoyed the process of learning things about the character that they already know, but you don’t, as I read. I find that usually you discover new things in a story as the characters learn them themselves, but in this story it’s different; you discover little nuggets about Eleanor as she reveals them slowly to you, much in the way that she starts to remember things about her past during the second section of the book.

This is a very well-written, and delightfully funny book, despite it being truly heartbreaking in parts too. I found the story very relatable in parts (due to recognising the human condition, and not because I’ve been through any dramatic turmoil in my life), and also could see traits in Eleanor and the characters around her that I’ve seen in others during my life.

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It took me a while to realise this was set in Scotland, and I suppose this was deliberate as the author fed you little bits of information along the way, and accents started appearing on the page.

This is a heavy-going book, and if you have any sensitivity to abuse or addiction you might want to steer clear. This is, however an amazing story of human kindness and how the mind can both harm and heal. There’s a few twists and turns along the way, and reading as an outsider to Eleanor’s story allows you to both analyse and sympathise with her plight.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. According to the notes at the end, the film rights have been bought by Reese Witherspoon and I’d be interested if a movie does come out of it. If it does, I hope they leave in the Scottish aspect. I have one question at the end of all of this though. One little loose end I need answering – do pubs in Scotland really serve Dr Pepper?

Has Instagram Stopped Us from Living in The Moment?….. NO!

I’ve been taking photographs regularly since I discovered Flickr in 2007. Unfortunately by then it was too late for me to have gleaned enough knowledge from it to pick a decent wedding photographer (I was married in 2006 and the professional photos were not very good. Thankfully my Brother-in-Law had his camera and took a bunch of great album worthy photos, phew!)

My love affair with phone photography started with the app Hipstamatic (which I really need to start using again) and then when instagram appeared, I was all about “the ‘gram”.

In my time taking photos I have completed 3 separate 365 projects (2 documented on my Flickr and 1 solely on instagram) For those who don’t know what this is, it’s simply taking one photo a day for a whole year. It’s kind of hard, and sometimes you don’t know what to take a picture of or just forget. But it’s taught me to really consider what makes a photo ‘interesting’ and whether a picture really is interesting before I load it to the internet. It really helped me to look at things in a different way to enable me to take a decent photo 365 times over a year.

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But after the first 2 (I did those back to back, since the first one was rather boring) I decided to put my camera away for the most part. I didn’t keep it in my bag (mobile phones didn’t have decent – or sometimes any – camera back then) I felt like I was too swept up with taking a photo at every good opportunity that I was missing out on the actual experience.

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Since then, and with vast technological advances, we all have awesome cameras in our pockets. My iPhone camera has a higher pixel quality than my Canon dSLR. But there’s always the chance to get swept up in a photo moment rather than fully living the experience. I remember going to an exclusive Hosier gig. The tickets were REALLY hard to get and he was just about topping his game. Everyone was talking about him. Two women in front of me took a few photos at the start of the gig, and then about an hour later I saw one of them uploading them to her instagram (whilst the gig was happening) and then within 15 minutes she was back on instagram, not only checking her likes, but sharing the photos with her friend sitting next to her – of the gig she was at that was STILL HAPPENING. She was busy reminiscing about something that was still happening in front of her and that she was missing….. FACE PALM

It’s certainly a fine line between sharing an experience and completely missing it. Years back, just after Michael Jackson had died, I went to a local town to see a Thriller Flashmob (remember when flashmobs were a thing?) The actual flashmob might have been good, I don’t know because this is what happened:

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You can play ‘spot the MJ impersonator’ with this one. I was totally struck by the amount of hands, phones and cameras there were in my way (this was 2009 so it wasn’t hugely the norm). But then, remember mine was in the crowd too!

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My first fulltime job was in retail back in 2001 and me and the girls used to find it odd seeing holiday makers with their cameras in a shopping centre taking photos of themselves in front of stores….. little did we know it would be the norm just a few year later.

Anyway, this is all bringing me to why I’m here talking about this today. A few days back Sara Tasker shared a link on Twitter (which you can find here) This article is about a Vimeo video (that you can watch in the article) created by a fella named Oliver, showing how ‘everyone takes the same pictures on instagram’. In itself it’s a really enjoyable video to watch, and well put together, so I’d encourage you to see it. But this site decided to interview the creator and here’s what he said:

“During my trip, I felt that many people didn’t really enjoy the moment and were hooked to their smartphones,” he says. “As if the ultimate goal of travel was to brag about it online and run after the likes and followers.”

I was with him up until then. I feel like this guy has really missed the point of instagram. He’s actively searched on instagram for places, tags and similarities and then put them together in a video. You could make a video of old paintings of fruit and tell people about how everyone back then was so obsessed with sharing their fruit bowls that their apples went bad before they could eat them…..

What he saw when he watched the video (he’d carefully curated) “Everyone spends the whole time behind their screen, everyone spends their whole holiday trying to get the perfect shot, that shot has been done already, this is all for likes, oh look at you bragging about your pretty beach holiday”

What I saw when I watched his video: “These people are living their best lives, look how happy they are, what an awesome view, what a crazy experience, these people belong in this world, I wish I could visit this place one day”

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What Oliver has failed to remember is

  • instagram promotes creativity, and it’s awesome to be creative and share that with like-minded people
  • taking photos is FUN
  • Not everyone is sharing everything from their holidays. That shot you’re seeing is the work of potentially 1 minute of their life
  • So what if they do spend their whole holiday with their face in their phone – it’s THEIR holiday and THEIR face!
  • Everyone is chasing experience to fill their one chance at life – so what if they’re having and then sharing the same experience as someone else has. It’s their experience – there are A LOT of them to have.
  • Sharing on instagram provides a little ‘experience’ to everyone who sees that picture. And it’s amazing for those who can’t (or haven’t yet) visit these places. Isn’t that the point, really?
  • If you feel it’s a ‘brag’ or you don’t like it – don’t look at it. Instagram isn’t mandatory. And if you can’t come off it, because you’re enjoying sharing your own pictures, remember why you’re using it. Your feed is there for you; curate it. Someone might just be sitting there looking at your photos thinking ‘what a bloody bragger’. They’re not for you, just like you, Oliver, are not for them.

I’m definitely an advocate of not missing an experience. But I’m also very concerned about forgetting experiences I’ve had. I have a huge fear that my memory will go and it’s a very lonely feeling. I want to be able to relive past experiences, and reminisce. The world of online albums and having a camera ‘right there’ when I need it is wonderful to me. I understand you shouldn’t have your face in your screen all the way throughout your life. If I’m filming or photographing something, I’m very careful to not view it through a viewfinder. But so what if people do – it’s their life, and if it makes them happy then ‘whatever’. And who knows, they might have experienced that thing a hundred times before, so filming whilst you’re there shouldn’t anger you – you concentrate on you. They might just be taking pictures or filming something on behalf of someone who just couldn’t get there. Their sharing this experience could bring enormous joy to someone across the globe, or even just to them in years to come.

It boils down to – why do you care so much? Concentrate on yourself, Oliver, and don’t spend so much time on Vimeo making videos about other people’s life experiences….. say what? It’s what you enjoy…..? oh! well…. my point has been made.

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All images are my own, are copyrighted to me and cannot be used under any circumstance.

What I Watched in 2017 – TV, Film & Documentary

I know, I know, we’re so over 2017. But I usually write a TV and Film round-up and this time it’s coming a few weeks into the year.

I’m lucky to have a husband who keeps a note of all the things we’ve watched in a year, because it’s interesting to look back on it. This year was full of some fantastic TV and Movies and I’d like to share with you the ones I really enjoyed.

Let’s start with film. There were only a couple of stand out films for me this year, and neither of them came out in 2017, it’s just I only got to see them that year.

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La La Land was a stand out favourite of mine. I went into this film wanting to hate it, for some reason. I don’t particularly like musical films. I find them awkward and unrealistic. And I think that’s what a lot of people didn’t like about this movie from the start. It’s rather cheesy from the get-go. BUT I adored it. I think it starts off overly cheesy for a reason – to get you immersed in what’s to come, and then it gets way less cheesy and you’re committed to the fact that people might start singing for no reason. But I know a great deal of people didn’t make it this far, and turned the film off. A lot of the things that happen in this film are metaphors (they don’t really start flying in the sky at night, but it’s a metaphor for how they’re feeling about each other) The film is uplifting, frustrating and heart breaking. And despite everyone breaking into song, it’s also an incredibly realistic portrayal of a modern relationship. If you like classic film, you have an open mind, and you haven’t seen this film yet – SEE IT!

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Drive was another movie I hadn’t seen yet, but everyone kept harping on about the music, and I figured why not carry on with the Ryan Gosling fest. This movie showed me what a truly incredible actor he is. He can achieve such power in such subtle acting, it’s amazing. Anyhow, this movie took my breath away. One particular scene, I realised afterwards, actually had me holding my breath. Another scene was so intense it reminded me of one in Scarface. It’s not a happy film, it’s not a lighthearted one either. If you don’t like guns and blood and fighting, stay clear. The soundtrack is really awesome too – it sticks the whole thing together like glue. Really an awesome film (Dad, if you read this, I think you might really enjoy this one).

Honourable mention to Don’t Think Twice (if you like improv comedy then you’ll like this one), Get Out and The Big Sick. Also Trick ‘r’ Treat, Table 19 and Julie & Julia.

So let’s move on to TV.

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Obviously I have to mention the epic return of Twin Peaks. Gary and I watched the entire show ahead of the new season being broadcast. And we weren’t disappointed when the new episodes aired. There were a couple of scenes in this new iteration of the show which still give me chills thinking about them (both consist of someone screaming, funnily enough) I can’t wait to hear whether a new season will be made, since there was so much unexplained!

Other shows we watched and very much enjoyed were

  • Freaks and Geeks
  • The OA
  • Stranger Things
  • Atlanta
  • The Man in the High Castle
  • House of Cards
  • 13 Reasons Why

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A stand of of the year, I binge watched Bates Motel and really really enjoyed it. It was probably my favourite TV show of the year. And considering I watched some really good TV this year, that’s saying something.

I also watched some pretty bad TV shows – Riverdale being one of them. Pretty Little Liars final season was rather awful, which was a shame. I actually didn’t care whether anyone lived or died.

We re-watched The Night Of, True Detective and the whole series of The Wire. We gave Breaking Bad a first go, and though we enjoyed it, I wouldn’t say it blew my mind.

I also watched some really great documentaries.

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I’m a big fan of Chris Gethard, who is an American comedian. I listen to his podcast Beautiful/Anonymous and he recently put out an HBO special of a stand-up show he’d done. Presented by Judd Apatow (who I also love) this covers dark subjects but in a self-deprecating and humorous way. If you are easily triggered by mental health and suicide subjects I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you aren’t and you find a way to get hold of this Special, then I’d recommend giving it a watch.

I’ll also mention Audrie & Daisy, Casting JonBenet and Beware The Slenderman. Some heavy subjects covered in those, but if you’re a fan of true crime you might enjoy them.

I’ve already kicked 2018 off with a bang having watched the whole of the German show Dark and also Big Little Lies (which had been recommended to me last year and for some reason I ignored)

If you have seen something you think I’d enjoy based on these shows I enjoyed last year, then please pop me a comment in the box below. I’m always on the look out for something awesome to watch!

 

Obviously, all imagery are publicity shots and belong to the production companies of the particular shows and films.

My Love of the Scary Movie and my Top 10!

It’s coming on Halloween, and if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll already know I’ve been sharing some of my old OLD posts on a few of my favourite scary movies. And if you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll have seen some of my random mentions of scary films as and when I watch them.

To get in the mood, a few weeks back we watched a movie called Trick ‘r Treat. I had never heard of it, but it was featuring as a scare zone at Orlando’s Universal Halloween Horror Nights, and the character Sam looked kinda cute for a scary sack headed ghoul, so we found it and watched it. For a movie that was released straight to DVD 2 years after it was finished, I was actually really impressed. It was scary enough, enjoyable and had a nice comic-book feel to it. I’d recommend it if you haven’t heard of it.

But I thought I’d share some of my favourites, whether they’ve been mentioned previously or not. And by favourites, I mean the ones that stuck with me, and I would watch more than once. Here’s my top 10 in order!

10: The Shining

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I’ve seen this film so many times, that I wouldn’t even call it a horror film now. It’s just a work of art. Scary, violent, messed up it is, but it’s visually incredible and Jack Nicholson is epic. I tried to read the book, but just like Joey, I put it in the metaphorical freezer years ago and never took it back out. Maybe I’ll go back to it one day. If you haven’t seen this, and you like scary films, this Halloween make it a must-see.

9: The Gallows

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This movie surprised me. As a big fan of found footage films, I was really surprised by how good this was. The scares were effective and there were enough twists and turns to keep me interested.

8: The Fog

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As a child growing up with a massive Hammer Horror fan (my Dad) I was exposed to some very bad, and then some very good scary films. John Carpenter’s The Fog (not the remake please) was one of them and I’m not ashamed to admit that the end brought me out in a cold sweat on more than one occasion. What I love about John Carpenter’s films was not just the ability to make a fricking fantastic horror film, but also how he composed and used the music almost as a character in itself. I just have to think about his films to hear the score in my mind. Having stood on the very shore that inspired this story, on a dark misty night not too long ago, I can honestly say this film is one that stays with you.

7: Halloween

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Another John Carpenter film, you can have Halloween films without Halloween itself, and it’s sequel (we don’t need to talk about the other sequels really) Adequately frightening and creepy, this is the paradigm of films about Halloween and is a great place to start if you’re wanting a classic scary movie fest this October 31st.

6: It Follows

This movie has such a retro feel, so much so that you’re never really sure when it’s set, but can only assume it’s present day based on some of the technology used. The music, costumes and sets are so ‘of an era’ – and this isn’t even mentioning the storyline. You can read my full review here, if you’d like to know more.

5: Ghost Watch

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Not strictly a film, but it’s made the list anyway. This BBC drama caused such a kerfuffle it was actually banned. Due to its style of filming and use of well-known presenters at the time, people actually thought this was a real event. Based on the Enfield Haunting (which was the inspiration for The Conjuring 2) Ghost Watch has inspired so many films after it (The Blair Witch Project to name one), is used as a case study in film schools and still has a cult following. I can honestly say it’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen, and the effects and technology used in it are so impressive for its time. Watch it, then research it to find out why it caused so much drama.

4: Grave Encounters

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I really bloody loved these films. There’s only two but I secrectly hope there’s a third. Again this is found footage, but it really pulls inspiration from other places (but not in a copycat type way) and offers scares and weirdness in a way I just liked. Read my full review here.

3: The Blair Witch Project

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You may have seen my recent review of this film and it’s sequel (I’m going to just forget that The Blair Witch Project: Book of Shadows ever happened) so you can head there for a full review. But this movie marked a change in scary films. Using found footage, which was never mainstream before, and also the brand new power of the internet, they created a cult following even before release. And the film didn’t disappoint. To this day I still get chills watching the last shot of The Blair Witch Project.

2: Paranormal Activity

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If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know I’m a fan of these films. I don’t understand why people trash them. Yes, the last one was VERY bad, but when you’ve invested in the others you kind of have to include it. The first one was epic and covered found-footage ground in a way that had never been done before. Some of the effects in the first 3 were pretty epic – gobsmacking in fact. Even the spin-off movie ‘The Marked Ones’ was REALLY good and towards the end literally made me gasp in the cinema when I realised what was happening. I guess I know the films really well, and I was pretty much the only one who realised what was going on, BUT still. I honestly think they’re worth the investment in time. And they made it to my number 2!

1: Scream

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This film was made for my generation, it was the first 18 film I ever watched and will always hold a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, parody films have pretty much ruined if for any generation afterwards, so there’s that. But I’m a staunch fan and will always be! I wrote a review of the first 3 films ahead of the 4th being released, back in 2011 which you can find here if you’d like to read it.

And that’s my top 10! Of course I have many many more I’d love to include, and I hope I find more in the years to come, which knock others off the list. But until then, if you’re looking for some scary film recommendations I’d go with this list!

Let me know if you have others in your top 10 or if you watch any of these on my recommendation, let me know what you think! Just don’t have nightmares!

 

 

The Blair Witch Project

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It’s been way too long since I wrote a good horror review and in the spirit of the Halloween season, I thought I’d write about one of my favourites, The Blair Witch Project. (This post does contain spoilers so if you don’t want to know about the films, then don’t read – then go watch them and come back!)

In 2017 it’s way too easy to take this film for granted, so I thought I’d school those of you who were too young to appreciate the rise of this film, at the time.

Ahead of its release in October 1999, a website appeared. This in the day when very few families even had a computer, let alone the internet, made for an exciting discovery. The website (which you can still visit today, albeit in a much pared down form) promoted a documentary about 3 film makers whose footage was found after their disappearance in the 1990s. The site took you to another other site that looked like a Burkittsville town site but was in fact part of the original one, which had small videos of interviews with towns people (some of which featured in the film), newspaper articles (fake of course) and allsorts of tidbits to immerse you into the story. I knew the site back to front, and everything was placed in there to lead you to the conclusion that this was a REAL documentary, and the film makers really were missing.

Of course the film came out in America way ahead of the UK, and reports of people having to leave the theatre part way through because of the found-footage style recording making them seasick, spread across the country.

I was sold! Finally seeing this at the cinema was a darn creepy experience but I was so impressed by the film style, of which hadn’t been seen in mainstream cinema before, and was so different from anything else I’d experienced.

The movie contains no score or sound effects. The actors had a basic storyline to follow, but their reactions to the scares they faced were, for the most part, genuine. Myrick and Sanchez, who made the film (and also The Blair Witch Project: Book of Shadows which we won’t mention again, and was more like a Marilyn Manson music video than an actual film) set up speakers in the woods and didn’t tell the actors. When they heard snapping branches, running or children playing around them, their reactions were real. Piles of rocks and twig things in the trees – they had no idea to expect them. They could only assume the sounds were part of the film making process, but in that environment, in the woods in the dark and in a tent – you can imagine how real it all felt. Even when one of the film makers went missing, the others had no clue that was going to happen.

The actual film’s a corker, so if you haven’t seen it and you’re a fan of an indie film, and a found footage one at that, I’d say give it a crack. Then don’t watch the sequel.

Now that’s done, you can move onto the 2016 Blair Witch.

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I was skeptical about this ‘sequel’. As such a fan of the original, I really didn’t want a repeat of Book of Shadows, but I was pleasantly surprised.

This film’s story starts with a guy who turns out to be the brother of Heather, the original film maker from the first film, who went missing. He receives tapes of the house she went missing in and is convinced he sees her reflection in a mirror. So sets up a team to go into the woods, find the house and see if she’s there. Sounds legit.

I won’t go into any more of the storyline, but I will discuss how this movie uplifts the first one. Firstly, obviously there have been changes in technology since the first movie, and changes in found footage style. There is use of a drone camera, head-worn cameras, GPS equipment. There’s an element of sound effects used, where there was none in the first, and you do actually see menacing ‘things’ in this film, where in the first it was mostly left to your imagination.

But at the bare bones of this, the 2016 Blair Witch is still raw, still about the relationship between the people and the woods, and still feeds on the fear of the viewer as well as the actors in it.

There are a few hard to watch parts in this, flashes of the original film and a supernatural element that wasn’t in the first. There’s also a suggestion of time shifting. But all of these just bring the story up to date. You can’t continue a story 20 years later and not expect some changes to be made.

All in all, these two films are great companions. They’re scary, play with your mind a bit and leave you adequately unnerved. And I wouldn’t want anything less.

Creating My Home Cinema aka Making the Most of a Scary Movie!

SPONSORED FEATURE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH PANASONIC

If you read my blog regularly you’ll know I’m a massive film buff. You might have seen I’ve already started to share some of my old horror movie posts, ahead of some new ones coming up, all in the name of October and Halloween. So when I was asked if I’d like to talk about the new Panasonic 4k TV range, I of course said yes!

The first TV in my bedroom was about 4 inches square, had an aerial you had to move around. If you watched it at the wrong angle everyone looked like they were in negative. I then upgraded to a little tube tv which also had an aerial so when Channel 5 came in, I had to get up and re-tune it every time I wanted to watch Sunset Beach.

I have a vivid memory of going to a friend’s house to watch a show I’d watched many, many times, and they had a widescreen TV (which we didn’t have in our home), but they’d not tweaked the settings so everything was set to widescreen – even full screen shows – so my favourite characters were stretched and looked so odd. I supposed they’d gotten used to it, but I was baffled by the idea that people would happily watch things in a way that was, let’s face it, just plain wrong!

Times have changed immensely since then. Not only are televisions so much lighter to carry and sleeker in design, but they’re also incredibly intuitive and even customisable. Not to mention with the addition of apps, YouTube has simply become just another TV station to me.

But when it comes to my film viewing experience, I’m a bit of a geek. If I’m going to watch a scary movie, it needs to be perfect – how can you expect to get the required scares if there’s glare on the screen, the sound isn’t perfect or there’s actually ghosting on your ghosts?

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When me and G-Man decided to upgrade our old Panasonic TV from 42″ to 50″ a few years ago, we did our research, and ended up sticking with the same brand. I say we, but to be honest Gary’s such an AV geek that he did most of it, and then said to me “we’re getting this one”. Which I was fine with!

One of the things I love about our TV is that the blacks are REALLY black. Meaning, and especially for horror films, that you’re seeing things as dark as they were intended when they were filmed. So if films like Paranormal Activity are your thing, you’re going to see the dark shapes and changes exactly as you would in the cinema, with no additional shading or shadowing that could possibly spoil your experience.

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Another majorly geeky thing we did with our TV as soon as we got it, was to set up our own personal picture settings profile. There are loads of suggested setting changes on places like AV Forums and YouTube, specific to your make and model of TV. These people have done all the hard work for you, so you can simply make the settings changes to the darkness, red, green and blues etc (and make sure you take off the default IFC setting which alters the frame rate you view things at and smooths the movement) and then apply this custom profile to each HDMI slot you use (so Sky, DVD player, console etc…) I know, after doing this, that I’m watching everything the way it was intended to be watched! It’s so important to me.

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It might seem like a lot of effort (and it is a little effort) but you’ll be so much happier with your viewing experience.  And wow, this is all without even beginning to mention the clarity of a 4k display and how bright and beautiful the colours are. I can’t wait for the new BBC Blue Planet series to begin, because the trailer looked breathtaking on our TV.

When buying a new TV it can be so overwhelming. There are so many brands, all offering special things and so many different prices. But when it’s all said and done, and you’re in your living room it’s just you and the TV – and you want the best viewing experience possible.

We’re made up with our TV and the little cinema we’ve created in our set up. We just need to get around to getting some kind of surround sound system set, and my horror film binge sessions will be that much more enthralling!

DISCLAIMER: Though this post is sponsored by Panasonic, this TV was paid for by me and my opinions and choices are honest and my own.

The Kryptonite to Creative Evolution

Flicking through my Facebook feed recently a video came up. It was the commencement address made by the actress Octavia Spencer at Ohio’s Kent State University earlier this year, and whilst I’m not too familiar with her work, her words spoke to me.

One point she made, as a young female person of colour , was that if when she’d been an up and coming actress she’d taken notice of the ‘lists’ – you know 25 actresses who made it by 25, or 30 richest lists – she would have stayed in bed, and not become as successful as she is. She referred to the ‘trap of comparison’ and told the graduates not to get caught in it, because they would continue to evolve in ways people had never thought of yet.

And this is what really struck me: comparison is the Kryptonite to creative evolution. And I’m not just talking blogging because it hits home to me, or in this situation acting, I’m talking all creative walks of life.

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Imagine the world if we’d had no David Bowie, for example. He came from the same places we did, but the creativity he brought to his field were totally unique – if he’d compared himself to his peers, and allowed that to bog him down, we would have never ended up with the Bowie we loved.

Think of any outstanding creative in any creative field and you can say the same. The ones who are most revered are usually the most unique. And let’s talk diversity – you don’t have to think back that long ago, and in some cases it’s still the same today, where these lists I mentioned earlier wouldn’t mention a single person of colour, or certain race or even feature a woman.

And I’m not trying to make this about diversity – I’m trying to make this about you. Just you sitting there. We all sit and compare ourselves. We flick through social media, and read gossip magazines online. We look at the success of those around us in our field and think “Well, if they’ve been successful and I haven’t, I need to be more like them” But then we end up with a world of clones. How boring.

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It’s the harder route, to be yourself and graft until you’re successful. And not everyone will make it to the ‘big time’ in their field. But if you readjust what success means to you – it’s not all about being top of the pile, the most famous or having the most money – then you might just find, with that mindset, you might rise higher than you’d thought.

Towards the end of Octavia’s speech, the underlined message she conveyed was

“The journey you take now, will be lead by you alone.” 

It’s a scary and powerful concept, but it’s true. Only you can carve out your path for the future, and only you are going to take it. So why would you want to carve out a path someone else has taken or is meant for a different person. Your path will have failures and disappointments, but that’s all part of learning. Because of this, you don’t backtrack on this path, you simply learn and move on.

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Life isn’t simple or easy – it’s hard graft, but if you really do work hard at it, you can earn your best life possible.