Monday, 30 December 2013

My arts highlights of 2013

Apologies for the lack of posts over the last two months - I have hardly had time to read, yet alone blog. I work in a theatre and the pantomime season is obviously the busiest time of the year and with every other spare moment spent in the usual festive activities of shopping for presents, card writing and gift wrapping, there has not been much time for anything else.

The end of a year is always a time of reflection and I was thinking of some of my most memorable moments of the year in the form of books, films and theatre. Here are some of my highlights and I would love to hear about yours!

Iron Man 3 (film)
I really enjoy the Marvel films and had loved Avengers Assemble, so was looking forward to seeing how the events in that film had affected Tony Stark. The trailers made it appear like a straight-forward action / comic book film, but Iron Man 3 was actually one of the most surprising and thought-provoking films of the year. With its twists and turns and mix of predictability with genuine revelations, I kept changing my mind through the entire film of whether I actually liked it or not! My full review at the time is here

Les Miserables (film)
I was really intrigued as to how good a musical with A list stars (albeit ones with a theatres background) would be and the answer was stunning! Although I did have some criticisms, overall this is a stunning achievement by Tom Hooper. There are some fantastic performances, notably from Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Samantha Barks and the first time I saw the film, it left me in floods of tears. The sign of a good film? I went back for a second showing! My original review is here

Peter and Alice (theatre)
£10 tickets to see a brand new play starring Dame Judi Dench? Definitely an offer which cannot be turned down! Peter and Alice told the story of children who inspired the authors behind Peter Pan and Alice In Wonderland and their tragic adult lives. It was moving, beautiful to watch and a fantastic opportunity to see Judi Dench playing opposite her Skyfall co-star Ben Whishaw. My full review is here

The Cripple of Inishmaan (theatre)
The second play I saw as part of the Michael Grandage season at the Noel Coward Theatre, starred Daniel Radcliffe as a young cripple boy called Billy. This play had an impressive and colourful ensemble cast who were all brilliant. The politically incorrect humour was hilarious and mixed with some very moving moments, I genuinely did not know what was going to happen in the second act. My full review is here

Frozen (film)
This was the first animated Disney film that I had seen at the cinema since I was a child. After my love of Tangled and the brilliant teaser trailer of a struggle between Olaf the snowman and Sven the Reindeer, I had to experience this at the cinema. And this is definitely in the top three films of the year for me as I loved every second. Featuring some brilliant songs, which stay in your head after just one listen, an unpredictable story, stunning scenery and two strong female leads, Frozen is a treat for all ages. Its funny, sad and exciting and I can't wait for the DVD release so I can watch it again and again!

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (film)
I am so glad that I listened to the lovely lady in my local Waterstones last year when she recommended The Hunger Games series to me. I would probably have never read them otherwise and missed out the amazing story of Katniss Everdeen. I missed out on seeing the first Hunger Games film at the cinema as I had not read any of the books then and had no interest in it, but I did enjoy watching it on DVD and thought it was a good adaptation. But Catching Fire is in a league of its own. Bold, brutal and at times beautiful to watch, I did not want to miss a single second of this film. It stays so true to the book and it is amazing to see the arena and all its surprises come to life on screen. Jennifer Lawrence is just amazing as Katniss, and with strong support from Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson,Lenny Kravitz, Josh Hutcherson and Jenna Malone, it is acted really well. Although I had been looking forward to this film, I did not expect to love it as much as I did. And I did not expect it to move me as much as it did. It made me cry in several points and the final scene of an extreme close-up of Katniss' face showing shock, then disbelief, grief, anger and then a look of pure revenge is just genius and really heartbreaking. Do not be fooled in to thinking that this films are just for teenage girls - the Hunger Games is brave film-making which makes you think and has real heart. I cannot wait for Mockingjay next year!

Other films I saw at the cinema this year included: Skyfall, Life of Pi, Great Expectations, Quartet, Hyde Park on Hudson, Lincoln, Hitchcock, To The Wonder, This Is 40, Oz The Great and Powerful, The Great Gatsby, Jurassic Park 3D Imax, Despicable Me 2, The World's End, Thor: The Dark World

I have read too many books this year to be able to pick out a couple of favourites so I have listed them all below. 2013 was the year I discovered Agatha Christie after visiting her holiday home in Devon. I love her writing and have plenty of her books to make my way through! I also read a lot of historical fiction as well as some 'different' books for me as part of my book club, receiving advance reading proofs from generous publishers and recommendations or gifts from family and friends:

The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton
The Cove - Ron Rash
Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
Citadel - Kate Mosse
The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
One Hundred Names - Cecelia Ahern
The Red Queen - Philippa Gregory
The Girl You Left Behind - Jojo Moyes
A Study In Scarlet - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Valley of Fear - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
Perfect - Rachel Joyce
The Sea Sisters - Lucy Clarke
And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie
The Bellwether Revivals - Benjamin Wood
Dead Man's Folly - Agatha Christie
Longbourn - Jo Baker
Inferno - Dan Brown
The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
The Truth About Melody Browne - Lisa Jewell
Cat Among The Pigeons - Agatha Christie
Before I Go To Sleep - S.J. Watson
The Sacred River - Wendy Wallace
The Matchmaker - Stella Gibbons
Calling Me Home - Julie Kibler
The Silent Tide - Rachel Hore
Sense and Sensibility - Joanna Trollope
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon
The White Princess - Philippa Gregory
The World According To Bob - James Bowen
Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch
4.50 From Paddington - Agatha Christie
The Invisible Kingdom - Rob Ryan
What Matters in Jane Austen - John Mullen
Bring Up The Bodies - Hilary Mantel
Black Roses - Jane Thynne
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
Burning Bright - Tracy Chevalier
Girl Reading - Katie Ward
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
A Gift To Remember - Melissa Hill
The Mistletoe Bride and other Haunting Tales - Kate Mosse

I have received plenty of books for Christmas, so am making my way through those now as well as my book club read for January. I found some unread books at the back of one of my bookcases too, so I have plenty to keep me going through 2014!

Please let me know your highlights of 2013 and what you are looking forward to in 2014!

Happy New Year!

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