How to Survive Outdoor Theatre

One of the great things about spending the summer in Oxford is that there is lots of outdoor theatre. And when the weather is hot and sunny and summery, attending a garden show is an easy, excellent way to spend an evening. Unfortunately, the weather is rarely hot and sunny and summery here, and preparations are required. Advice:

1. Dress warmly. Then add an extra layer. Then bring an extra layer just in case. It’s amazing how many freezing evenings it has taken me to take this advice seriously. Last night I wore my wool coat and beret and knee-high boots, and only then was I comfortable.

2. Including extra socks. In case your feet get cold in summery shoes or your first pair get wet in the rain.

3. And bring a blanket. Whether to sit on or wrap around yourself, I never regret having a blanket in tow.

4. And rain gear. If you’re allowed to use an umbrella and it’s raining, then you’ll want to have one. Otherwise a hood is appreciated. Even if it isn’t raining, the seats (or ground) might be wet, so account for that (perhaps with blanket above).

5. And maybe a pillow or cushion. If you’re sitting on the ground, some form of fluffy support is nice (or one of those little picnic chairs. But don’t be that annoying person who brings a ginormous lawn chair).

6. Invest in a hot drink. At the interval, if you’re cold (or even slightly cold), book it to the concessions stand and get a hot drink. It will warm your hands and your body (and your heart).

7. Make sure that everyone in your group is also prepared. It seems like a simple concept, but especially in Britain, where the weather is less than ideal (and rarely predictable) during the summer season (or any season really), some theatrical experiences bring light to the phrase “braving the elements.” Make sure everyone is as prepared as you and it will help everyone to enjoy the show more comfortably :)


Oscar Predictions 2012!

The 84th Academy Awards are tonight. Or, in the UK, at 1:30am. After finally seeing all nine of the Best Picture nominees and many of the other films represented in other categories, I now present my predictions and commentary!

In order that they will be announced tonight:


★ Emmanuel Lubezki, Tree of Life

Bob Richardson, Hugo

Jeff Cronenweth, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Guillaume Schiffman, The Artist

Janusz Kaminski, War Horse

I think this is a sure win for ‘Tree of Life,’ although all are strong worthy options here (except ‘War Horse’). ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ should have made the cut though.

Art Direction

★ Hugo

The Artist

War Horse

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Midnight in Paris

My favorite category! ‘Hugo’ deserve to win, and all deserve to be nominated, except maybe ‘Harry Potter.’ This is the one category for which ‘War Horse’ deserved recognition.

Costume Design


★ The Artist


Jane Eyre


I don’t see a clear winner here, so why not give another award to ‘The Artist.’ That said, it could easily go to any of them, and for some reason I keep thinking it will be ‘Jane Eyre.’ Maybe because that film isn’t really recognized anywhere else and it’s the kind of thing that could snag Costumes.

Best Makeup

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

★ The Iron Lady

Albert Nobbs

Wouldn’t it be funny if this were the only Oscar Harry Potter ever won? But no. It has to be ‘The Iron Lady’ here – it should be recognized if Meryl Streep isn’t. More on that in a bit. By why no ‘J Edgar’ nomination?

Foreign Language Film

★ A Separation (Iran)

In Darkness (Poland)

Footnote (Israel)

Bullhead (Belgium)

Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)

I haven’t been able to see any of these, but ‘A Separation’ looks like a no brainer. It’s too bad that ‘La Piel Que Habito’ (‘The Skin I Live in’) from Spain and ‘Shi’ (‘Poetry’) from South Korea were not entered for consideration (not sure if ‘Shi’ would have qualified for 2011 instead of 2012 though).

Supporting Actress

★ Octavia Spencer, The Help

Jessica Chastain, The Help

Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

Berenice Bejo, The Artist

Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Another no brainer category: definitely Octavia Spencer. Her performance was one of my favorites of the year overall, so I will be very happy to see her win. Jessica Chastain was also brilliant in ‘The Help,’ but I think her nomination should have been for ‘Tree of Life.’ Perhaps because ‘The Help’ was driven by so many strong female performances hers didn’t stand out as much as when she was the representation of women in ‘Tree of Life.’ I’m glad Melissa McCarthy got a nod here, and kind of glad that Shailene Woodley did not.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


★ The Artist


The Descendants

I really want this to go to ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ but Best Picture and Editing usually go hand in hand. It would be my second favorite award to Art Direction, but it’s always so predictable. That said, I’m happy ‘The Social Network’ was able to grab it last year – while ‘Dragon Tattoo’ was brilliant, it wasn’t nearly as brilliant as last year’s Fincher.

Sound Editing

★ Hugo


War Horse

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo


Can ‘Drive’ win something please? I do not understand the Sound categories at all and don’t know if I ever will. I loved the ‘Drive’ score, but it didn’t have enough original material to qualify for the Score category. So…sound? :) But no, I’m going to be safe and put ‘Hugo’ for both categories, hoping against a ‘War Horse’ upset.

Sound Mixing

★ Hugo


War Horse

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


*apparently after the Sound category presentations we are rewarded with a Cirque du Soleil performance!*

Documentary Feature

★ Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory


Hell and Back Again

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front


Haven’t seen any of these, but I just read Paradise Lost so maybe that’s why it’s sticking out to me…

Animated Feature

★ Rango

Kung Fu Panda 2

Puss in Boots

Chico & Rita

A Cat in Paris

My second least favorite category. I’m particularly bitter this year since they shut out ‘Tintin’ which had the best animation I’ve ever seen. To be fair, of the nominees I’ve only seen ‘Rango.’ The story is weak, but the concept is promising, as are the voice actors. And Roger Deakins. I’ll think of it as a belated ‘True Grit’ cinematography award.

Visual Effects

★ Rise of the Planet of the Apes


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Real Steel


The visual effects were all ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ had going for it. And James Franco, but that was wasted on bad writing. Anyway, the visual effects were great, Andy Serkis was great – they get my vote.

Supporting Actor

★ Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Christopher Plummer please! Another of my favorite performances of the year. ‘Beginners’ was such an overlooked film (as was its canine star, although he was nominated for a Golden Collar!). So glad Jonah Hill got an unexpected nod.


★ Ludovic Bource, The Artist

John Williams, War Horse

Howard Shore, Hugo

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

The Adventures of Tintin

There weren’t any standout scores for me this year, so I’m happy with whatever. I’m quite happy with the nominees actually – while Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross did a good job with ‘Dragon Tattoo’ it was no where near ‘Social Network’ so it’s okay that they weren’t nominated again. ‘The Artist’ relies on the score for the entire film, so yes, this makes sense.


★ Man of Muppet, Muppets

Real in Rio, Rio

Seriously? Why is this even a category? I liked ‘Rio’ a lot (no animated film nomination though? I guess I can’t really judge having only seen one of the films), but haven’t really taken the time to analyze either song. Nor will I be taking it.

Adapted Screenplay

★ Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, Jim Rash,The Descendants

John Logan, Hugo

Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, Stan Chervin, Moneyball

George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, The Ides of March

Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughn, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

This is where ‘The Descendents’ will get their recognition. But they shouldn’t. It was at least better than the confused jumble that was ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,’ but not as cleverly woven together as ‘Hugo’ or as sharp and compelling as ‘Moneyball’ (still haven’t seen ‘Ides of March.’ I’m sorry, Ryan.).

Original Screenplay

★ Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids

Asghar Farhadi, A Separation

JC Chandor, Margin Call

Yes Woody Allen! My favorite film of the year deserves something and this is where it will get it. My glee for ‘Midnight in Paris’ shall outshine my fury that ‘Bridesmaids’ is on the list. Unoriginal and un-fun. I hear that ‘A Separation’ deserves to win, but I still haven’t seen it.

Live Action Short

Tuba Atlantic

★ The Shore



Time Freak

I’m not going to pretend to know anything about this category. At all.

Animated Short

★ The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

La Luna


A Morning Stroll

Wild Life

Again, um, yeah. People seem to like ‘Flying Books.’ Okay, that then.


★ Michel Hanazavicius, The Artist

Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Alexander Payne,The Descendants

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

Terrence Malick, Tree of Life

Best Picture/Best Director rule. Easy.


★ Jean Dujardin, The Artist

George Clooney,The Descendants

Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Gary Oldman, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Demián Bichir, A Better Life

Clooney and Pitt deserve it more than Dujardin, but they will cancel each other out (Pity. Clooney should win.). Oldman and Bichir should just be happy to be nominated. It was an ‘aw’ moment to see them recognized. Still bitter about Uggie not qualifying though.


★ Viola Davis, The Help

Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Glen Close, Albert Nobbs

This should be Meryl Streep’s year,but alas, it is Davis’s. She was great. But the character she played was not nearly as demanding as Streep’s. That’s always the tough thing about these acting categories. Best performance of the year was Tilda Swinton, but that was never going to be Oscar appropriate. My favorite moment of the awards season was hearing Rooney Mara’s name announced for her nomination – so unexpectedly wonderful.


Midnight in Paris

★ The Artist



The Help

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Descendants

Tree of Life

War Horse

There is no question. ‘The Artist’ will win. And it should win. I’ve listed the films above in the order that I liked them. Of this list, I think that there should have been only five nominated, cutting off at ‘The Help.’ Kind of a dull year, but still some good films recognized. The theme of the year seems to be nostalgia – cinematic and artistic. The second, less interesting but still powerful, theme is persistence. Those two themes cover all of the films nominated for Best Picture. Except maybe ‘Tree of Life.’ I still just don’t get it.

Happy Oscar night, everyone!

7 Most Anticipated Films of 2012


It’s like a cinematic superhero party!


I’ve always said that this book should never ever be a film. But with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan cast as Gatsby and Daisy I have started to change my mind…


Spider-Man is currently my favorite superhero and I think Andrew Garfield could make him even more super.

number 4 – BRAVE

Pixar’s latest with a badass female protagonist.


I’ve had my doubts about this one just because of the hype and the amazingness of the book. I trust Josh Hutcherson. I trust Jennifer Lawrence. But I don’t trust Liam Hemsworth and Gale needs to be the best ever because he IS, okay, Peeta fans?

number 2 – THE HOBBIT

Peter Jackson is back in Middle Earth for the charming prequel to the Lord of the Rings. And yes, I did just use the word “charming.” It’s just lovable.


Christopher Nolan has yet to make a film that hasn’t amazed me. Add Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway into the mix and I don’t think this can possibly disappoint.

I’m Supergirl and I’m Here to Save the World

When I first watched The Princess Diaries I must have been no older than ten. And at that age films about high school appear SO DIFFERENT than they do after having been through high school. The characters looked so old and mature and cool. Ten years later and one and a bit years out of high school and Lily blends into Miranda the super cool middle schooler from Lizzie McGuire and Michael – who used to be The Coolest Guy Ever – has about two lines because he’s just that awkward and unfortunately, so is his formerly-deemed-awesome haircut.

But I still love it. For nostalgic reasons, I love the cheesy early 2000s soundtrack (Backstreet Boys, Aaron Carter), the combat boots, the scooters, the chunky flip flops, the excessive hair accessories…for more serious reasons, I love Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. In the past year I’ve become quite the Anne Fan, and after seeing her all grown up it’s fascinating to return to her charming debut as Mia and seeing her as distinctly Mia. There’s a bit of Anne Hathaway in there but ultimately, she has the character down in a genuine, unique way. And I love Mia Thermopolis. (“I’m a synchronized-swimming, yoga-doing, horseback-riding, wall-climbing type of girl.” Yes, by the way, for once climbing is accurately portrayed on film, however briefly!).

Now Julie Andrews is also brilliant as Queen Clarisse. The perfect blend of regal royal and super hip grandma. Watching this now, a lot of the transitions are choppy, a lot of the sound editing is fake, and there’s a whole lot of corny. But Ms. Andrews pulls it together with sophistication and depth throughout. What a rock star.

While I love going to the cinema and staying up-to-date with the latest Oscar contenders and sadly neglected foreign hits, there is nothing quite like watching old favorites with outdated displays of fashion, uber pop soundtracks, and the same loveable characters who have been living in the depths of my mind, waiting to be revisited.

And sometimes we need the reminder: Miracles happen.

HALLOWEEK: Halloween Nostalgia in Film, TV, and Books

I kicked off Halloweek with back-to-back Halloween episodes.

Pretty Little Liars: The First Secret


I’ve always been a fan of flashback episodes, and this one was pretty intriguing, as all things Alison DiLaurentis are. Sufficiently scary, and cool to see the girls’ former fashion choices.

Lizzie McGuire: The Night of the Day of the Dead


Strangely, I didn’t really watch Lizzie McGuire when I was, you know, Lizzie’s age, but have been watching it now that I’m at uni. Kat and I decided to skip ahead to the Halloween episode of season one, which does Halloween justice, trick and treat.

I’ve only just begun my Halloweek TV marathon, but I’m thinking of watching some Friends, Arthur, Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, and of course Even Stevens. Post any must-see Halloween specials in the comments :)

Unexpectedly Effective Music for Essay Writing

Most of the music I listen to while doing work is energetic, yet subtle, mostly instrumental, or sung in a foreign language, and often it’s an album I’ve never heard before (I usually listen in complete albums).

However, there are some albums that break all of these rules and yet still work with work. These albums are by Lady Gaga and Rihanna.

I don’t know how they do it – maybe something about the girl power vibe motivates me to work harder. Even though that’s not what the lyrics are about. Ever.

The great thing about working late at night when I want to be asleep is that I’m less likely to procrastinate, whether in the form of tidying my room, checking my email, or…having personal dance parties. You know, for the most part.


“I WILL be calm; I WILL be mistress of myself”: Wisdom from Jane Austen

The spark that ignites friendships is a moment “when you’re like, yes exactly” (Uh, yes. I just quoted my own song lyrics.). The same is true of literary friendships, and Jane Austen perhaps most of all connects with me on this emotional level – she describes real human feeling and behavior so neatly and truthfully that there are lots of moments when I’m like, yes exactly. Here are some of my favorite lines from Sense & Sensibility, in which I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of Marianne’s “sense” and Elinor’s “sensibility.” The first time I read this novel, a few years ago, I was firmly the firey rebel Marianne, and was surprised to see how my allegiance and sympathy have altered over a short period of time.

“And besides all this, I am afraid, Mama, he has no real taste. Music seems scarcely to attract him, and though he admires Elinor’s drawings very much, it is not the admiration of a person who can understand their worth. It is evident, in spite of his frequent attention to her while she draws, that in fact he knows nothing of the matter. He admires as a lover, not as a connoisseur. To satisfy me, those characters must be united.” – Marianne

“Excuse me…and be assured that I meant no offence to you, by speaking, in so quiet a way, of my own feelings. Believe them to be stronger than I have declared; believe them, in short, to be such as his merit, and the suspicion – the hope of his affection for me may warratn, without imprudence or folly. But farther than this you must not believe. I am by no means assured of his regard for me. There are moments when the extent of it seems doubtful; and till his sentiments are fully known, you cannot wonder at my wishing to avoid any encouragement of my own partiality, by believing or calling it more than it is.” – Elinor

“Colonel Brandon alone, of all the party, heard her without being in raptures. He paid her only the compliment of attention; and she felt a respect for him on the occasion.”

“It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; – it is disposition alone.” – Marianne

“[Elinor] knew her sister’s temper. Opposition on so tender a subject would only attach her the more to her own opinion.”

“Marianne would have thought herself very inexcusable had she been able to sleep at all the first night after parting from Willoughby. She would have been ashamed to look her family in the face the next morning, had she not risen from her bed in more need of repose than when she lay down in it. But the feelings which made such a composure a disgrace, left her in no danger of incurring it.”

“[Marianne] sometimes endeavoured for a few minutes to read; but the book was soon thrown aside, and she returned to the more interesting employment of walking backwards and forwards across the room, pausing for a moment whenever she came to the window, in hopes of distinguishing the long-expected rap.”

“I WILL be calm; I WILL be mistress of myself.” – Elinor

my favorite film genre: the off-beat romance

It’s taken me a while to admit this to myself, let alone the world, but alas: I love romantic comedies and chick flicks. I appreciate that often they aren’t the best films cinematically, but I enjoy them. And yes, I did see I Don’t Know How She Does It on opening weekend.

But my favorite film genre is more specific:

The Off-Beat Romance.

(500) Days of Summer. Stranger Than Fiction. 10 Things I Hate About You. Juno.

I recently saw two films from this category, hence the realization that it is my favorite, because they were freaking fun:

One Day: Covers twenty years of one relationship, showing only the July 15ths. Being the Anne Hathaway fan I am, I had to see this film, and it made me a Jim Sturgess fan as well (previously I had only seen him in Across the Universe – also fabulous – so couldn’t really call myself a Jim Sturgess Fan so much as a Jim Sturgess in Across the Universe Fan). I also wanted to steal her wardrobe for a lot of the film (an excellent element of the Off-Beat Romance genre: fantastic fashion.). Then realized that a lot of it is already in my closet…

You Instead: What’s cool about this film – and also, what’s a bit weird at first – is that it takes place over the course of an entire day at a music festival and feels as if it doesn’t really skip parts. It’s about a cool guy in a band (Luke Treadaway) a cool girl in a band (Natalia Tena) who develop an intuitive bond over their initial mutual hatred (yeah, sometimes any romance is cliché, but sometimes it works!) and their passion for music! Now unfortunately, this film doesn’t have a US release date…yet…but it’s a great excuse to visit the UK I guess :)

Off-Beat Romances are often about characters who think they’re too cool for romance and then they fall for it anyway. Kind of like my relationship with rom-coms. Well consider this my crazy cliché public declaration of love in the end when the guy (usually the guy) is like screw being indie cool, YOU ARE AWESOME.

See what I’ve read, watched, and listened to this week at dodgy’s culture diary :)