My Neighbor Totoro, Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, Courtyard | The LDN Gal

My Neighbor Totoro review with Film4 at Somerset house

In case you have not already guessed, I am a massive Studio Ghibli fan and have been since childhood. So, you can imagine my excitement when Film4 announced their Summer Screen 2017 series at Somerset House and My Neighbor Totoro was a featuring film.

The Film4 Summer Screen experience is something I have also been longing to do for a while now. It can be notoriously difficult to get tickets at times but thankfully I nabbed two for the screening of My Neighbor Totoro on Sunday, August 20, 2017.

Of course, like most people who visit Somerset House for the two-week summertime event, I had already seen the film. However, the appeal of the event is that it is an open screening in the famed courtyard. An event where you snuggle down with food and drink and take advantage of the giant screen within.

Saying this, as it was summer, I had been optimistic that the heavens would not open. However, this being England, they did just that.

With a £2 plastic rain mac in tow, we prepared for a night of childhood memories and torrential rain. I must admit, I adore My Neighbor Totoro (it is one of my Studio Ghibli favourites) but even I was a bit miffed at the weather – they do pre-warn though, the show must go on despite the weather. 

My Neighbor Totoro, Studio Ghibli, Film, Umbrella Scene, Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House | The LDN Gal

My Neighbor Totoro Film, Umbrella Scene, Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House | The LDN Gal

The Film4 Summer Screen Experience

Even with the rain hopping upon me for pretty much the duration of the film, as soon as Totoro popped onto the screen I was delighted and entranced, especially when he shared my pain in the beloved umbrella scene at the bus stop – laughs ensued and the mood brightened. 

I would recommend the Film4 Summer Screen event to anyone. It is a unique experience in one of the most historical courtyards in London. A perfect date-night or birthday treat (August baby you see).

I would warn you to prepare for the elements, think cushions, something to lean on, a rain mac and lots of snacks. Thankfully, a kind steward took pity on me and gave me a blanket.

Overall, I would return despite the weather,  spending the latter half of the film standing to watch to avoid the downpour. Somerset House offers a magical experience, be it the Film4 Summer Screen or skating upon the ice rink at Christmas time.

The Film4 Summer Screen 2017 has now concluded. Tickets will go on sale for next years event in Spring 2018.

Have you been to the Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House? What is your favourtie childhood film?

Stephanie xox

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Ghibli by hyung86

The great Animation debate: Ghibli versus Disney

Disney is a universal brand, a timeless reflection back to our youth, brimming with fond memories of cinema trips and cosy nights in with the family. Tales of traditionally perfect Princesses, talking animals and sing-along-songs. The companies ability to hold a special place in the hearts of each generation for almost a century is admirable. So, why is Studio Ghibli, the Japanese counterpart for the East, so much more?

For those who do not know of Studio Ghibli, it was founded in 1985, around 62 years after its fair-to-say rival, Disney. The Japanese company has created over 20 beautiful animated feature films to date, with their own array of wonderfully crafted heroes and heroines.

The two animation giants undoubtedly share similar traits, their work is utterly timeless and adored globally. However, it is a belief shared by many that the East began to take over the West when it came to quality animation, and there are a fair few reasons why Studio Ghibli will always surpass Disney.

Growing up, I watched both Disney and Studio Ghibli films, and the latter continues to move me as I edge towards my mid-twenties (a scary prospect). The heart of Studio Ghibli stems from its animation team, especially from the creative brain of the former lead director, Hayao Miyazaki, who created something with a far deeper moralistic and feminist meaning.

Ghibli Posters

Why are strong female leads so important in animation?

Like many, I found myself learning far more from Studio Ghibli, with their tales of female struggle and empowerment (most films tend to have a strong female lead). Unlike the Disney Princesses, the heroines are relatable without the patronising undertone and the magic and depth of their fantasy tales awakens the attention of adults, as well as presenting important moral dilemmas and messages for children watching.

Looking at the female leads in Disney films (predominantly the Disney Princesses) in comparison to those in Studio Ghibli, a striking difference will continuously manifest itself. Time and time again in Disney, it will be seen that these princesses are overtly defenseless without the men in their lives to rescue them (Mulan, Merida and the new Princess Moana being the few exceptions).

Compare this to Studio Ghibli, and you will find feminist icons in abundance,  the majority of Ghibli films have an admirable and strong female lead. Miyazaki says:

“Many of my movies have strong female leads – brave, self-sufficient girls that don’t think twice about fighting for what they believe in with all their heart. They’ll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.”

Not relying on a man (or anyone for that matter) is a recurring theme, everyone is seen as equal in the gender Olympic’s and this is just wonderful for the self-esteem of a small child, who doesn’t love feeling empowered and equal?

WHY is female empowerment needed IN ANIMATION?

An example of utter reliance on men is presented to us in The Little Mermaid (Disney). Our leading mermaid, Ariel, plays centre-stage under the sea, she is beautiful, feisty and terribly naive. Of course, she falls head-over-heels for the ‘wrong’ guy in the opinion of her father, whom she then desperately seeks out upon the land in exchange for her voice. He notices her, but not enough to avoid being bewitched and ensnared by a witch. Says it all but a happy ending is guaranteed, this is Disney.

old-sophie-howls-moving-castle

Compare this with female protagonist Sophie of Howl’s Moving Castle (Studio Ghibli), and you are presented with a self-conscious wallflower. Sophie is plain and unnoticed, obviously reinforced as viewers see that even her own mother fails to realise her transformation from a young girl into a twisted hag. This ordinary girl, no ‘beauty’ on her side, must seek out a wizard whose attention she had caught in her youthful state. The issue being that she cannot speak a word to anyone about the curse and therefore must lurk around until she can figure out how to break it herself, while her wizarding companion is on a quest to find himself also.

There is far more depth to Sophie, she’s opinionated, brash and stern (probably something to do with the aged state and being utterly fed up). Whereas Ariel is presented as emotionally motivated and stroppy, only seeking her happiness as an end goal and caring little for the loss of those around her (particularly her somewhat overbearing father who is terrified about her disappearance). On the other hand, Sophie seeks to help all those around her, she is a complex character whose love and compassion motivates her throughout, perhaps even at her own expense and happiness at times.

The problem with Disney is that helplessness, ‘love’ and beauty define the Princesses. With Studio Ghibli, beauty isn’t key, the female leads are admired for their strength, journey, and powerful hearts. It is a stark and reoccurring difference, just select any Disney or Studio Ghibli film.

Some critics argue that Studio Ghibli films exploit these young heroines. However, It would seem that the consensus argues that Ghibli, in fact, challenges girls to solve their own problems. Saying this, modern Disney appears to have approached this too with ‘stronger’ characters such as Mulan and Merida, to name a few. In contrast, Studio Ghibli has been doing this with his characters since day one, in a culture often perplexed by such dominating female empowerment.

Another perk is that Studio Ghibli animations provide far more cultural exploration for us Westerners and prove themselves to be culturally apt. Whereas Disney often fails to truly embrace the cultures of their Princesses in their locality.

Often you will hear of Disneyland being the ‘most magical place on earth’, its stories the basis for this magic. I argue that Studio Ghibli offers far more magic, it teaches us to be kind, to not judge, to respect and cherish our environment (nature being of great religious importance to the Japanese), that pacifism can work and childhood transitioning is tough, no one can save you from it but you.

Their stories are creative, with complex and challenging storylines, developed and iconic characters, heartwarming and meaningful messages, embellished with beautiful animation. Studio Ghibli will remain timeless to its audience, holding many an animated heart for a lifetime with their emotion invoking work. The core and important message will stay the same, despite your gender, appearance, size or background, you can achieve anything you want to, and this is why Studio Ghibli will always surpass Disney.

Does your heart remain with Disney or Studio Ghibli? What is your favourite Ghibli film?

Stephanie xox

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Bridget Jones Baby

Bridget Jones Baby Film Review

Who doesn’t love a romantic comedy? Even when you enter the cinema full well knowing that said rom-com is going to be both a charming and chaotic nightmare. You would not expect anything less from Miss Jones.

Bridget Jones (played by Renee Zellweger), first stole our hearts with her relatable and ditzy ways back in 2001 in Bridget Jones Diary, a single woman in her early 30s searching for love in all the wrong places. The first movie beautifully playing out the yearning for the notorious bad boy (Daniel Cleaver, as played by Hugh Grant) versus the oh-so-conservative, Mr. Nice (Mark Darcy, as played by Colin Firth). During which time, the leading lady relentlessly strived towards being the epitome of feminine beauty and health, of course.

After we presumed a happy-ever-after upon the closing scenes of Bridget Jones Diary: The Edge of Reason of 2004, the emotionally-constipated Mark Darcy is no more, the engagement has been called off and he has married another woman. The callous cad!

We’ve skipped forward more than a decade with the belated Bridget Jones Baby, the teenagers, and adults of the noughties filled with wonderful nostalgia and optimism for Bridget as she celebrates her 43rd birthday. The diary is long gone (hello subtle Apple promotion of the iPad), Bridget is a ‘respected’ career woman, still single (WHAT? Yes, you heard it. Single!) and secretly yearning for a future of motherhood. The ‘normality’ she sees in her friends who surround her with busy family schedules is a perpetual reminder of where she should be in life, the heart of a nuclear family.

bridget_jones_baby

On the verge of breaking point, she is tricked into a rambunctious trip to Bestival, meeting a somewhat narcissistic American (Patrick Dempsey as Jack Qwant, a multi-millionaire mogul – where on earth does she meet these men?!) for a night of no-strings-attached fun in an attempt to lessen her woes. This is shortly followed by an intoxicated rendezvous at a baptism after-party with a devilishly handsome (if I do say so myself) old flame (Hello again, Firth). With these fleeting and haphazardous intimate moments, the damage is done.

Obviously, there is a baby involved somewhere in all this madness, and the now pregnant Bridget must determine the father, having got herself in said pickle with some out-of-date vegan condoms (now there is a lesson to play responsibly, kids).

Going through the pregnancy the two men fight for her affection, doing so in a verging on patronising fashion, both desperate to be the father. Unlike the previous films, genuine heart touching moments are plentiful and you really do see the maturity and vulnerability of the characters throughout the film.

‘Sometimes you love a person because of all the reasons they’re not like you. Sometimes you love a person because they feel like home.’

Without risking spoilers, Bridget Jones Baby is a wonderful film in its own right and should be praised as the concluding chapter of the wonderful Miss. Jones life. It was not nearly as Mamma Mia as I presumed and was a touching reflection on the life of a modern day heroine/hot mess. If you are a fan, Bridget Jones Baby is definitely worth a watch.

Gatsby and Daisy, The Great Gatsby Film Review | The LDN Gal

The Great Gatsby FILM REVIEW

As a person who loves their literature, I could not understand how a film adaption of The Great Gatsby could be anything but great. The romantic drama by Baz Luhrmann captures just about everything I adored in the book, a wonderful and picturesque experience with a stellar soundtrack and impressive cast to boot.

The booming 1920’s and the fleeting joy it brought to the glamorous of New York is captured wonderfully on screen. Just as quickly as the harrowing reality of prohibition, all night parties and secret loves are unveiled.

Told as it is in the book by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), cousin and neighbour to lost millionaires. The film recollects his time with them amidst the materialism and madness, “the restlessness approached hysteria. The parties were bigger. The pace was faster, the shows were broader, the buildings were higher, the morals were looser, and the liquor was cheaper,” he comments.

What the critics hate, I adore. This is a film that presents to us the harsh reality and consequences of excess, excess to impress. The hauntingly beautiful computer-generated imagery, the attention to detail in both fashion and behaviour of the time and the hopeless belief that dreams will come true, are all captured in this two-hour long journey of forbidden love and intense drama.

What of Gatsby you say? Well, Leonardo DiCaprio was perfect in role, proving himself as sweet, secretive and sauve, with a treasure trove of hidden secrets and the somewhat admirable ambition to progress and be something great – although, not always for the right reasons.

His love interest, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), is portrayed wonderfully also, beautiful and ditzy, the oh so perfect flapper girl is thrown into an emotionally-charged love triangle, with the assistance of her cousin Nick and influential friends.

Her and Gatsby play out their affair throughOUT the movie, longingly and hopelessly, as Nick watches and comments on, deceitful husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), becoming more wary with each encounter.

This is an adaption that compliments the original work, charging it with a modern and glitzy twist. Whether a fan or not of the novel, it is worth seeing for the sheer beauty of the production.

What did you think of The Great Gatsby? What is your favourite era?

Stephanie xox

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Hitchcock-poster1

“All of us harbour dark recesses of violence and horror,” says Anthony Hopkins acting as director Alfred Hitchcock.

The behind-the-scenes biopic is a peek at Hitchcock’s greatest achievement and struggle, the revolutionary classic Psycho.

Hopkins gives a convincing portrayal of the 60-year-olds gentlemanly arrogance; the pursed lips, waddle, well-spoken with a fixation for the younger women.

It is a shame that the voice is a little off, but we can forgive that.

The film is centred on an impressive cast with Scarlett Johansson as the panic-stricken lead Janet Leigh, and Helen Mirren as the hardworking wife Alma Reville.

Hitchcock’s in turmoil with Psycho, desperate to pull it off. His relationship becomes strained. Alma becomes increasingly unappreciated, in the shadows of the “great and glorious Alfred Hitchcock.”

He succumbs to her and they work together, financing the film independently when Paramount Pictures rejects its content of voyeurism, incest and transvestisms.

People appear disgusted by the gore and Hitchcock swears his cast to secrecy and boldly continues.

However, so do the doubts, nightmares and visions a regular occurrence. Alma supports him “unquestionably” as he deteriorates, editing the film for the difficult censors, a daunting task. The duo balances one another, a tale of love as it is of horror.

Oh, but what of the unforgettable knife scene? Well seeing Johansson’s performance proved impressive and convincing. Not just a pretty face but an incredible actress.

The ending would satisfy the “master of suspense”, heartfelt before concluding direct to camera with a clever twist.