Orange is the New Black

Back in 2013 Netflix launched it own series called ‘Orange is the New Black’ which follows the character Piper, a very normal woman going to prison. She has a year’s sentence for carrying drug money across country. Piper is not the main character but more the glue that keeps the show together. She very clearly stands out from the rest of the women in prison. The programme introduces you to the backgrounds of the inmates and why they are the way they are and what lead them to prison.

So what is this blog about then? Well, ‘Orange is the New Black’ and me have only just found each other. I ignored it when I heard good things about it. I still wasn’t that convinced that it would really be that good. A series about prison? How far can this go? How wrong I was….. So this year for the 3rd series Netflix surprised all viewers by airing all 13 episodes in one go. My social media for the next few days was just full of ‘Orange is the New Black’. It would seem like I was missing out. Which lead me to watching. I won’t say how quickly I got through the first 2 series but safe to say I was late for quite a few things. But I am being strong and slowly making my way through the third series. I was pleasantly surprised by the show. Of course it is hilarious and enjoyable to watch but there is a different layer to it.

This is actually quite a complex show. Not in the sense that storylines are overly complicated and you have to think about what is going to happen, but in the sense that these are “bad” people who you shouldn’t really like. However, it’s the “good” people who work for the prison who are in some situations which are less trustworthy and more corrupt than the ones which the prisoners find themselves in. Of course the prisoners are corrupt and have a dark quality that lead them to be there, but all them have more than one story. You begin to feel comforted and feel love for your favourite characters and actually forget the fact they are in prison. This leads to questioning yourself if they are really that bad.

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So it wouldn’t be a blog post about a series without talking about a favourite storyline within the show. Mine involves the character Jimmy Cavanaugh in the second series. When she first appears in the episode “Looks Blue, Tastes Red” she seems like just your average funny older lady in her late 70’s, she is nothing too scary and a pretty harmless character. It slowly develops and her behaviour seems strange. She is searching for the love of her life, Jack. It becomes clear she is suffering from dementia and seriously struggling. Her two friends try to hide what is happening so the officers don’t intervene in the situation. At this time Piper finds out her grandma is dying. After hearing this she sees Jimmy and begins to look after her, comfort her and just generally care for her. It’s Piper’s way of dealing with not being able to say goodbye to her grandma. The scene in which these acts of kindness happen are only short, but still endearing. They are actually pretty powerful and indicate the different levels the show will take and the different emotions they want viewers to feel. The storyline sadly results in them letting Jimmy out for early compassionate release which actually means effectively dumping her on the side of the road.

So not just a show about women in prison then. There is a bit more to it.

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Jurassic World

It’s hard to believe that it was 22 years ago that we first met John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and went on one hell of an adventure around Jurassic Park. Now, when I first found out about Jurassic World I was rather sceptacle because I felt that it wasn’t going to be as good as the original. You only have to look at the second film, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and think maybe it is not a good idea to make another. Yes, the third of the films, Jurassic Park III (2001), definitely saved the legacy but by no means was as amazing or special as the first. Key word there being “Special”. I remember the first film being so special and amazing and opened all our eyes to a new and amazing world. You ask most kids who grew up in the 90’s what their favourite film was and I guarantee it will be Jurassic Park. That and theme tune is pretty epic! (Bet you’re humming it now). So let’s get back to the fourth of the series, Jurassic World. I was just going to avoid seeing it, but I saw loads of people my age making statements about it being as good as the first and feeling like a child again. So I went…….. How wrong I was.

So we have Gray (Ty Simpkins) who is obsessed with dinosaurs and going with grumpy teenage brother Zack (Nick Robinson) to visit their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallos Howard) who works at the Jurassic World. So yes, of course something is going to go wrong, which is okay because we have Owen (Chris Pratt) who works with the dinosaurs and can save the day. So as far as characters and actors go there is a brilliant dynamic. First we have a bit of a love story going on between Claire and Owen which develops during the film, and then we get to see Gray and Zack grow closer and really be there for one another. Also Claire, power to you for all that running in heels.

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Characters aside, there is something else that makes this film special which is the reference and homage to the past. Now we all know the scene from the first film where they first see the dinosaurs and they get out of their cars and the theme music builds. Possibly one of the most iconic film scenes. So how could it be topped? Instead of seeing the dinosaurs through adult eyes, it is the character Gray we see him running around from enclosure to enclosure until he runs up a hill and overlooks everything. We have a brilliant panning wide shot of the island. It is truly amazing. It feels a bit like watching yourself as a child seeing that scene from the first film where they get out of their cars. Oh, and of course they have that epic music. Another particular favourite part is when Gray and Zack are lost and trapped and end up in the old park area. This is where the banner falls on the Trex at the end of the first film. This scene is full of references to the first film and you just can’t help smiling as you remember.

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So there you have it, a small review of Jurassic World and if you’re not feeling at least a tiny bit nostalgic for your favourite childhood film then this might do the trick….

A Song for Jenny

Many of us can remember where we were during the events of the 7th of July 2005. For 52 people and their families life was about to change. To commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the London Bombings the BBC told the story of Julie Nicholson’s memories of the day. How she found out that her daughter Jenny was one of the victims at the Edgware Road tube station explosion. This programme was adapted from a book that Julie Nicholson wrote and consequently is based on true facts.

Programmes like Songs for Jenny only need two factors to make them powerful and thought-provoking and that is honesty and simplicity. Songs for Jenny has certainly achieved these. The second scene is the family as they were, all sat together at the dinner table, everything we need to know is shown – Jenny is the older out of 3 siblings and she has a mum and a dad, and her family are happy and close. This is achieved very simply, showing a very normal and simple family dynamic. As you watch you may be able to relate to this family group. I suppose that is the point. This is a normal family like yours and mine and during the programme there are flashbacks to which reinforce this fact.

When writing about a programme it is normally very easy to pick out and write about key emotional moments which guided the story. Except this is not a piece of fiction, it is fact….. If I really had to pick out something to discuss I would choose two moments in particular. The first is after Julie has gone to view Jenny’s body and she cannot face getting on a tube to Paddington station, so instead she instead hails a taxi. The driver asks her about her day and so on and so she explains the events that have brought her to London. This leads to a kind gesture – he insists on driving her to Reading rather than letting her get the train, and does not charge her for the journey. He says he wants her to know that there are kind people in this world. I realise this is perhaps a strange scene to discuss. Surely it should be about the family? This scene shows how the bombs affected and changed the people of London. How the people of London were also mourning the dead. The second choice is again possibly a strange option but it is when Julie is speaking to her young nephew. He is aged about 8 or 9 and he is asking questions. What was she doing on the train? Where was she standing? Was she reading? How did she fall? I think most programmes would not want to have this type of conversation. Why bring up a child’s questions? Having a child doing this shows a sense of naivety. He doesn’t see the true horror, he doesn’t understand fully what’s happened and that the world is still a safe place to be. But that is exactly how he should feel. To me this is very powerful. Sometimes seeing something through a child’s eyes is easier and kinder. I can’t really fault this programme, and when I finished watching it, I felt as though I knew something about Jenny and her family, which was the point. A truly moving and emotional piece of television.

Alexander McQueen

“London’s where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration.”
– Alexander McQueen, January 2000

As well as Sound and Doctor Who, fashion is one of my oldest loves. I know there is a hot debate where some think that fashion is just about clothes and doesn’t mean very much. Well I challenge you to say that after seeing Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty at the V&A Museum.

Indeed this seems a bit of a strange topic for a media blog but I want to discuss the sound which was designed by John Gosling and used to enhance the exhibition. I must admit when I went I was expecting just his clothes to be showcased along with stereotypical music and a little bit about the man behind the clothes. I was very much mistaken. Through visuals such as clothes, installations and quotes I could see how he used fashion to express himself. At times this was incredibly emotional and you could see his tortured soul, but if he expressed himself through clothes then the sound was used to take you on a journey inside his mind. That does sound like a strange statement to make so let’s go into a bit more detail.

The 4th room was a jungle theme and was all about his clothes inspired by African tribes and animals, along with an Installation of a model under water and banging on glass. At times this room was extremely claustrophobic and this was partly due to the sound which was a constant and fast paced drum beat, very much like a tribal-type drum. The mixture of a narrow room, the installation and drums created the feeling of being trapped but you couldn’t take your eyes off the clothes.

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Now the 5th room was to do with the pride of Scottish heritage and it was filled with Scottish tartans. Part of the beauty of this room was the regal music. The music gave a sense of grace and importance. You very clearly understood how important his heritage was to him and how he felt history should not be forgotten. The music and the clothes were the voice to convey this message.

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The 6th room was the largest of the rooms and had the most going on. With so much happening you don’t know where to start. I describe this and see this as a child just entering the world. All you do is look up, confused by your huge surroundings. The music was a mix of Jewelry box music and classical music. You begin to walk around and learn more about the man, seeing footage of his clothes and the way the models walked. His shows were an experience, not just a viewing and very much like this exhibition.

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One of the most beautiful rooms was an installation of Kate Moss from one of his shows where she wore a white flowing dress and seemingly floated across stage. Part of why this was one of the most emotional rooms was due to the choice of music which was the theme music from the film Schlinder’s List. This seems an interesting choice. The mix of the music and image is peaceful and calming. I suppose the main thing that makes it so emotional is that up to now the music has been so powerful and strong and this is a chance to reflect. After seeing powerful quotes from the man himself along with very heavy and mental clothes, you see a man calm and at peace and you take that thought with you when you leave, rather than remembering the darkness.

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Again the final room is very much about peace.   It was about his love of nature and how he used it in his work. The sound was of nature, mainly of birds, birds signify peace and flying away.

I would lie if I said this wasn’t an emotional experience but it was certainly worth it and provided a clear insight into his mind.