La La Land

lala

Sometimes it takes something spectacular, a real whack  in the gut, to revive an ailing blog. So it was with La La Land, the stunning film that has all of my artsy friends chattering this month.

It didn’t take much to sell me on this film: Emma Stone is pure, unadulterated girl crush, Ryan Gosling is my slightly less pure man crush, I bloody loved Whiplash from director Damian Chazelle and it was billed as a love letter to Hollywood’s golden age of big-budget musical-movies, aka my drug of choice.

What I did expect, and loved: big-scale musical numbers, gorgeous colour and choreography, Fred-and-Ginger style hoofing, Stone’s cutesy singing voice and a hefty dollop of quirkiness. What I didn’t expect, and was obliterated by: the wistful sadness of lost love, the heart-grazing realness of the lovers’ quarrel, the insight into a performer’s life, a passionate case for keeping jazz alive, Gosling’s Rat-Pack-soulful singing voice. The travel siren call to glorious LA. I wasn’t prepared for it to be so funny and human and heartbreaking. I can’t choose one favourite scene, but Gosling’s to-and-fro with restaurant manager JK Simmons is up there, as is his wander on the pier, Stone’s run to the cinema, Gosling’s adorably anguished jazz 101 breakdown (‘It’s conflict and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!’), and the daring flashback sequence at the end.

Even the bits I didn’t love (the trilling housemates who we never saw again, the whimsical sky-dance from Griffith Observatory) were pretty magical. Many frames were haunting, retro visual sighs, pretty enough to hang on my wall.

emmas

If you love musicals, see it — I don’t think, like some people I know, that the songs and soundtrack will endure, but they serve the plot and atmosphere of the film with a lightness of touch and and a sad beauty. If you don’t love musicals, still see it — LA never looked so good, the script is funny as f**k, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ll be imitating Mia’s colour-blocked wardrobe this spring/summer. I’m glad cinemas still exist for creative, big-dreaming tours de force like this one.

In cinemas now.

Cheekathon palette

In all of my years of loving and using make-up, the order of my beauty obsessions has gone roughly like this: eye stuff, lip stuff, base/glow stuff. I always knew ‘cheek stuff’ was a thing, I just wasn’t especially excited about it – I associated blusher with a thick, powdery-pink 80s circle on each cheek rather than a delicate, petal-warm glow, and bronzer with the over-caked girls in my year at school (man that was a bad beauty era…. poker-straight, GHD-ironed hair, spidery cheap mascara – no wonder I was traumatised).

Anyway, ‘cheek stuff’ has shot WAY up my beauty lust list in the last couple of years. My turning point was Benefit’s PosieTint, which I blogged about in the early days of this site, and I’ve since found creamy blush treasures from Rimmel and powder ones from Laura Mercier and Bourjois. It really does wake up your face, make you look dewy and dainty, and if you have blue or green eyes you can really bring them out with the right contrasting peach or tutu-pink.

So I was fifty shades of ‘yay’ when a lovely and generous friend bought me this gorgeous Benefit palette, the Cheekathon, for my birthday. A sort of greatest hits of the kitschy brand’s cheek stuff, it has multiple blushers, shimmery highlighters and sultry bronzers, so I can dip in and try all the ones I haven’t yet (so far, I’m loving the Coralista), and experiment with switching subtly from just-back-from-Barbados tanned (I am, sorry) to oh-crap-it’s-winter-and-I’m-pale rosy cheeks. YES. Here come the cheeky swirls.

Broad City

I’m SO late to the party on this one, but I love this mental TV show! There are so many reasons why it’s a breath of fresh air (/weed smoke): it’s about two mid-twenties best friends in New York, who are funny and weird and besotted with each other – and every other character is kind of incidental. It’s full of drugged-up or imagined dream sequences (I particularly liked Abbi and Ilana rolling into the bank after Abbi receives her first creative paycheque) and hilarious, surreal japes the two get themselves into (and eventually, out of).

Abbi and Ilana are loud and lairy, irresponsible, objectify men, get high (a lot) and make terrible life decisions. It’s more spaced-out but somehow sharper and more realistic even than Girls (which I love) just in terms of how girls riff off each other when they’re alone together. It’s also a bit of a comment on how millennials approach their crappily paid, digital era jobs (Ilana’s casual attitude to work is everyone’s twisted fantasy of sticking it to their boss). It’s unpredictably, crudely hilarious. And, best of all, it’s co-written by two real-life best friends, actually named Abbi and Ilana, only slightly exaggerating their mid-twenties friendship. AND it’s produced by comedy goddess Amy Poehler, who took a chance on their DIY web series and brought it to Comedy Central. They’re three seasons in, so you can binge-watch the whole lot on Sky On Demand, or online.

Standout moments… so far

1. Jeremy’s package (Working Girls, s1 ep3)
Abbi offers to sign for her hot neighbour’s delivery (who she’s casually in love with), misses it, and then has to make an epic journey to an eerie warehouse across the Hudson.

 jeremy

2. Creepy locksmith (The Lockout, s1 ep6)
The girls get locked out of Ilana’s apartment, then manage to summon a locksmith SO creepy that they edgily get him to unlock a neighbour’s apartment instead, so he doesn’t have her address. The neighbours who live there promptly come home and mace the shit out of them.

3. Fancy restaurant (The Last Supper, s1, e10)
A & I book a posh dinner at fictional restaurant Octavia, for a dinner that gets more and more surreal and ends in epi-pen-stabbing disaster. What I liked most about this was the giggly bravado of two broke girls dining out at a Michelin joint in bra tops and body-con (not to mention an Amy Poehler cameo as a chef warring with her maitre’d husband).

4. Secret handshakes (In Heat, s1 ep1)
When it transpires that Abbi visits one Bed, Bath and Beyond store so much, she has multiple secret handshakes and in-jokes with its staff. So simple. So brilliant.

5. Ilana’s the boss (Mochalatta Chills, s2 ep2)
Terminally idle employee Ilana is challenged to do some work for the day in her boss’s absence, and ends up hyperactively hiring multiple interns, having them serve her and ending up with serious slavery guilt. And a cut-price ‘white power’ suit.

Sidebar: These are discounting ANY moment featuring Ilana’s on-off lover, Lincoln (comedian Hannibal Buress). Every minute he is on screen is pure gold.

 lincoln

Broad City is on Comedy Central and series 1-3 are available on Sky On Demand.

Foundations great and small

The best thing about working in the same publishing company as any women’s magazine is the random and mysterious prospect of The Beauty Sale. For the magazine, it means clearing out their overflowing beauty samples cupboard. For me, working nowhere near lovely scented and shimmering girly stuff these days, it means I get to shovel as many goodies into a carrier bag as I can manage, for whatever cash I happen to have on me that day (they’re always a guerilla-style surprise. You’re often alerted by the herds of fashion gazelles stampeding towards an empty conference room). Joking aside, the money all goes to a great charity and they raise THOUSANDS.

Anywho, this season’s was as much as a blind panic as always, netting me a crazed mix of great-quality designer make up, hastily swiped usefuls (shampoo, body scrub) and one or two ‘what was I thinking?’ eyeshadows or lipsticks. The best product by far, though I knew nothing about it when I grabbed it, was an Armani maestro glow foundation. Actually, it’s more like a primer-meets-highlighter (too silky-thin to actually cover any blemishes) but on a good skin day, it glides on and makes you look super glowy. Like, Puff-Daddy-era J.Lo glowy.

Weirdly enough, just prior to the surprise sale, I had bought a great bargain Maybelline foundation, too (and one with much better, more matte coverage for those not-so-J.Lo days). It’s called Fit Me! Matte and Poreless, and it’s great for hotter days or post-gym when, let’s be real, that Armani liquid gold would slide right off my face. Sometimes you need to bring in the cheap guns.

Armani Maestro Glow is £30 at allbeauty.com. Maybelline Fit Me! is £5.99 from asos.com.

Silk pyjamas

It’s all bloody Olivia Pope’s fault. I wrote a while back about how obsessed I am with intense US political/crime drama Scandal, but that was before I became equally, if not more, obsessed with lead character Olivia’s PJs. I like to watch the show when I’m in home in slippers with a nice glass of red (Liv is always pouring ruby Chianti into huge, sparkling glassware – if you don’t want a glass at the beginning, you will two thirds in) and not many episodes in, I started to covet her wardrobe. Not her crisp, white and dove grey workwear (although YES) but her lounging wardrobe.

I love to lounge. Imagine how much nicer it would be, I thought (two grapefruit-sized glasses of Tesco Shiraz in), to lounge in mink-grey silk pyjamas, amid cream cable knit throws and charcoal tweed pillows, à la Liv? So I went online and nabbed myself some of those silky bad boys (mine were from eBay, where there are a surprising amount of small businesses specialising in such things, but M&S had a good range, too). And now I can lounge in slinky comfort along with Ms Pope, even if my hair will never be as glossy, nor my skin as lustrous, as Kerry Washington’s.

[I actually think I have a weird sleepwear fetish. I watched two episodes of ITV’s sumptuous Victoria before those floor-length, high-collared white nightgowns began to look good. Luckily Vic’s not so hot on the old claret.]

Hamilton: The Revolution

Hamiltome

A few months ago I raved about the musical Hamilton, currently a huge hit on the world’s culture scene – bursting through the velvety walls of Broadway and into the mainstream as it scooped Grammys, Tonys, appeared on the BET Awards and outsold countless pop albums. Much of the original cast has left Broadway, and new productions are being mounted from Chicago to London.

As such, there are millions of digitally-engaged Hamilfans hanging on writer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s every tweet, posting devastatingly cool fan art, making hilarious memes and discussing the hip hop, Broadway and cultural references in the lyrics on Reddit every day. It was about time for a souvenir book. And boy, did Lin-Manuel and journalist Jeremy McCarter write a belter.

It’s so beautifully put together that I almost cried. Pages of the show’s sublime lyrics and stylised production and behind-the-scenes photographs are intersected with thoughtful essays by McCarter on the phenomenon that is Hamilton. I don’t mind admitting that I welled up every third chapter or so, as the delicate detail and personal background behind many of the show’s choices were revealed. Every time you think you’ve learned everything you could ever need to know about this show, something else fascinating crops up – one of the most fascinating insights was how this cast of super-talented non-A-listers shaped their characters, as Miranda frantically added in faster raps for motor-mouthed Daveed Diggs, or Destiny’s Child-style runs for the always-jamming Schuyler Sisters, or an element of silent ferociousness for Leslie Odom Jr’s Burr.

So much love has gone into this book, from the styling of chapters like an 18th-century tome to the heartfelt tributes to every single creative and cast member. But the best thing about it is how well-written it is; each chapter has a theme and a purpose, and moving conclusions sneak up on you faster than Hercules MULLIGAN and his furious rap verses.

There will possibly never be another theatrical revolution like this in my lifetime; it’s our generation’s RENT, or Oklahoma. I’m so privileged to have watched it unfold, and so glad I have this piece of the action to read back when it’s a classic.

Hamilton: The Revolution is £24.99 on Amazon.

Lisianthus

Have you, too, been looking for the perfect fresh flower for a busy London flat-share? Or is that the most middle class sentence I’ve ever said? (I once overheard an editor of mine pick up the phone and say, ‘Oh CHRIST, the bloody cat’s knocked over the balsamic vinegar.’)

But I digress. I bought some dusty pink, tall stemmed buds I didn’t recognise for my new flat, mainly because they were £4 in Sainsbury’s, also because they were ravishingly pretty. And they’ve lasted about a week and a half! I’m seriously impressed. They also seem to come in purple, I may mix them up next time.

Great value, low maintenance blooms for less than a fiver: YES.