I finally got my tooth implant after a too-long period of wearing a denture (one day, I will write about this feeling). Before the crown was put in, I had a bone graft in my upper jaw, and a titanium dental root was drilled in. The pain is indescribable. I cried all through the surgery, and then all the way home, and my poor friend J had to sit there on the tube and watch me cry self-piteously (I’d just dropped over a thousand quid on surgery – no money for taxis). And the discomfort carried on for a few days after. There is no simian swelling like the simian swelling you get after a bone graft, let me tell you. I took photos, because I am a self-obsessed millenial – and I do not say that to deflect the charge of self-obsession; it is merely a fact and anyway, if previous generations had smartphones I wager they’d do much the same – but I cannot bring myself to share them in public. My face, which has changed a lot over the course of my life, never looked as alien as it did for those few days. Everything was pronounced – even my ears changed shape briefly, the skin of the delicate shells stretched taut as the alien bovine bone worked itself out inside my face – and thrown out of whack. Imagine looking in a funhouse mirror, but the mirror/call is coming from inside the house, literally fusing itself to your bone. It is bodyhorror with a small ‘b’. Every so often I look at those photos and wince with a sort of gawping, horrified pride.
Earlier this year, I was talking with a friend who is a writer about something she was working on, something which is a labour of real and deep love. You don’t need to know anything at this point other than its lead is a black girl and as always, I am here for black girls, especially when they are as complex and wonderful and ordinary as this one my friend is writing. We talk about this character as though she were a friend we know in ‘real’ life, and I think it’s because in many ways, this girl is real. She is real to her creator, to me, and she is real to so many black girls all over the world. She is also unfortunately (for literature, for all of us) so rarely seen in books. I have been thinking about this girl for months. I can’t wait to see her over a few hundred pages, interacting with readers, making them nod with recognition and delight. I am so excited.
I am, by my very nature, a fan. I enjoy things and I enjoy enjoying them. And there are few films I enjoy enjoying as much as While You Were Sleeping. It’s a warm, gooey pie of a movie, starring Sandra Bullock at her sweetest, Bill Pullman at his most gravel-voiced, and Peter Gallagher’s lips at their most pillowy. I have a deep and abiding love for it, and that is why I am drastically widening the net when it comes to these film recaps – it’s not from 1999, and it is not a teen movie. WYWS is from 1995, and it is a proper adult romcom. We have deviated from the script entirely, people. But this is happening. WE ARE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.
Cast your mind back to 1995, if you can. Let me paint you a word picture: basic arithmetic tells me it was the year I turned 13, but it is my heart that reminds me this was the year of Toy Story, of Jumanji, of the very first Pierce Brosnan Bond film, GoldenEye. Because Jon Turtletaub (who went to direct National Treasure – and its sequel – so you know, we all win) also directed this little wonder. On the page, it probably looked hokey as hell: ‘girl saves boy’s life, accidentally poses as his fiancée at the hospital, falls in love with her fake fiancé’s family, but more ickishly and carnally, also his brother, and somehow it all ends happily’? Netflix’s genius summary has it as: “Sandra Bullock plays a transit worker who rescues a handsome commuter, then pretends to be the comatose man’s fiancee while falling for his brother”. In real life, there’d be a court case, and possibly a suspended sentence somewhere in the mix, but hey, it’s romcom gold. I can’t remember how old I was when I first saw this, but I know that I was young, it was on VHS, and it was love at first watch.
Here’s the theatrical trailer:
Let’s get into a rewatch/recap situation below the jump.
There are people on the public stage, who we might think of as celebrities, whatever their field. Their life’s work becomes our life’s consumption. And over the course of years – or shorter periods that take on the significance and weight of years via the shortcuts of strife and pain – we get to feeling that we knew them, and more importantly they knew us. The reality is often quite the opposite, of course. What we knew was nothing in the grand scheme of things, and not only did they not know us, they never really wanted to.
Honey, so your life will be sweet. Palm oil, to lubricate life’s aches and ameriolate its many pains. Salt, to preserve and keep you. Kola nut, I can’t remember exactly, but is it not enough that it is the most symbolically Nigerian thing, across all ethnic lines?
So, listen. What you are about to witness is a blatant show of plugging. Look away now of this offends your eyes/sensibilities.
I’m cribbing this from my Tumblr, so apologies if you already follow me on there and are getting this twice. I’ve made no secret about how much I love the television drama, The Good Wife: I have written about it a few times for the guardian, and earlier this year, I interviewed Archie Panjabi, who plays Kalinda Sharma, investigator at the fictional law firm of Lockhart Gardner and wearer of The Sexy Boots of Justice™ (I believe @johnwarrender came up with this, and I love him for it).
The series of scenes in the video up top are from the second season of CBS (More4 in the UK) drama, The Good Wife. There’s a lot of hoo-ha around the current fifth season (superlatively good storytelling, showing no signs of age, BIG EVENT) at the moment, but I am not looking to talk about recent plot points in the show today. For one thing, the episode has not yet aired in the UK, and will not air for another few weeks at least, and for another, the players involved are so much more than this season. As such, please be careful if you make a comment below – no spoilers, please.
In the video above, in which someone has very kindly spliced together scenes from the season 2 finale, Closing Arguments, we see two players, Will Gardner and Alicia Florrick. The essence of their relationship, their characters is captured in this video, I think, and the video is the thing that I want to talk briefly about. The video is almost exclusively Will and Alicia, from the immediate aftermath of a heartfelt victory in court, to a celebratory drink at a hotel bar, and then beyond.
January’s hysterical descent into nostalgia and the depths of unedited self-publishing proved ridiculously, astonishingly popular. This is not false ‘third encore’ modesty. Obviously I believe every keystroke of mine is prize-winning, but I was so pleased and surprised that so many people liked that (half-dissertation length) piece! Seriously, thank you for reading the recap of She’s All That, and thank you for sharing it across all your internet spaces. It is no exaggeration to say it is in the Top 3 most read things I have written in the almost-five years this blog has been going. If I’d known you were this keen on rambling perspectives on oldish movies, I’d have been doing this ish years ago. My ego thanks you profusely.
And that is why we are doing it again! That’s right, after combing my legal online streaming sources and my DVD library (yeah, I call my 130-ish DVDs a ‘library’ – fight me), I realised that I own pretty much none of the 90s Teen Movie Canon™. But then the gods smiled on us all and Netflix added this month’s title to its roster! This was meant to be, friends. We’re doing 10 Things I Hate About You, which Netflix’s blurb has as follows: “After learning that Bianca can’t date until her man-hating older sister Kat finds a beau, Bianca’s would-be boyfriend pays a moody school rebel to woo her”. Shut up, Netflix. There is so much to love about this movie – the cast! the soundtrack!reworked Shakespeare! Heath Ledger doing Frankie Valli! baby JGL! Gabrielle Union [again]! etc. etc. – and so much to get into that we’re just going for it. LEGGO!
I used to keep a diary, in which I wrote every day. It wasn’t what my American friends call a ‘journal’ – I did not write out my dreams or hopes (in any structured way) or amateurish poetry or prose – but an old-fashioned ‘here is what I did today’ diary. I’ve been writing since I was very young, first on my bed post, and then on the walls, much to the annoyance of my parents. I’ve kept a diary since the super-self-obsessed days of puberty, beautiful hardbacked notebooks (my mother loves nice stationery and made us love it too) filled with rage and a punishing lack of kindness to myself and others, written in both the Nigerian English slang of my youth, regular ‘for posterity!’ prose, and, for a few months between 14 and 15, a now indecipherable code, like hieroglyphics, only written in blue ink and far less complex (and important for understanding an ancient civilisation). I can feel the secrets contained in the pages of coded squiggles, though. And because I can no longer understand what I wrote, I have to believe that these were important things – covering jealousy, love, pride and anger. Because at that age these were the things I cared about enough to hide from prying eyes, but maybe also my future self? Hmm. Perhaps that’s me stretching artistic licence.
It might not be pertinent, but I feel like it might be: I started writing this post last August, a week or two after finishing a lovely, longish stint of work at a newspaper. Clearly the euphoria of working in jam-stained pajamas again got to me, because I went on to not finish it for another eight months. In a way, though, that’s a core part of what this post is about. Prioritising and realising what you want to be spending your time doing, but more importantly what you don’t want to spend your time doing. Last August I wanted to go out and enjoy the warmth and sunshine (remember how great that was?), apply for fellowships in Germany, write for a magazine. I didn’t want to write a blog post about priorities. And now I do.
A few weeks ago, I was very kindly invited by the good people at BET to a screening of their new original drama, Being Mary Jane, starring the talented and ageless Gabrielle Union. After nibbles and drinks in one of the bars in the Soho Hotel, we settled into one of the screening rooms to watch. I have thoughts – and feelings – about Being Mary Jane, but let me point out three things real quick. These three things are small but telling – and they could not have been written except by the hand of a black woman (in this case Mara Brock Akil, the creator of the much missed characters of Maya, Toni, Joan and Lynn in sitcom Girlfriends). Here are the three things:
- Mary Jane mentions her edges;
- At the gym, Mary Jane pulls on a shower cap en route to the shower;
- At work, in a discussion with another woman of colour (her Latina colleague Kara, played by Lisa Vidal), Mary Jane calls up and calls out the stereotype of the ‘angry black woman’.
I first watched She’s All That back in 1999, at the Stratford Picturehouse some weekend after school. I remember loving it, because it hit all the spots it was supposed to: boy and girl got to have each other at the end, and bad guy kind of got his comeuppance, which is as it should be in real life. The 90s – especially in the mid-to-late period – was a significant time for teen movies. It was a golden period, during which the industry enjoyed a purple patch starting around 1995 with Clueless, continuing into 1996 with The Craft, and exploding in a high point of acne, prom and hormone-fug in 1999, which saw the release of 10 Things I Hate About You, Cruel Intentions, Never Been Kissed, Election, American Pie and of course, She’s All That. In 2000 and 2001, we saw movies like Bring it On, Get Over It and Save The Last Dance, but largely, the boom was over. There would be no real, big, all-encompassing teen movie moment for a few years, when Tina Fey’s triumphant Mean Girls reared its plastics head in 2004. Here, in 2014, we still have not seen as rich a spread as the late 90s gave us.
And so one one icy evening in Berlin last autumn, I powered up my laptop and cued up She’s All That. I was feeling nostalgic, perhaps a little homesick that night, which is probably why the movie appealed so strongly. Prior to this, I don’t think I’d watched it in almost a decade, and my recollection went something like this: vague Pygmalion references, popular guy, outsider girl, a bet, a makeover, a misunderstanding, prom scene, resolution, Kiss Me by Sixpence None The Richer, FIN. Turns out, it was all of these things and so much more. It seems obvious to say, but watching a film at the age of 16 or 17 yields a vastly different return to the one you get when you view that same work in your 30s. For one thing, life at 16 was an infinitely simpler thing. I had sixth form, little to no money, and a head filled with teenage mush alongside the standard issue brain. In my 30s, on a journalism fellowship in a foreign country, and thoughts of the bills I would face upon my return to London, life is a little more lived, less shiny. I do not say this to sound wise and fat with experience – it is just the truth. I may not be old, or been to war, or birthed a child. But I have been paying council tax for ten years now, and filing a tax return for four, and let me tell you – that shit will change your outlook.
Before we go any further, I want you to know that according to Wikipedia, this movie cost $10 million to make, and made more than $100 million at the box office. I also want you to know something I discovered only last summer: this movie was apparently co/ghostwritten by M Night Shyamalan. Chew on that for a second. Masticate the thought until it is a pulpy mess. Now swallow. Your mind has just been blown.
Anyway. She’s All That. Below is a kind of recap of the film, plus my feelings upon watching it again, 15 years after its release. It’s a ramble and at just over 5,000 words, a bit of a slog. You have been warned: bow out now, or forever hold your peace.
Most Fridays for the last nine-ish months, I have been putting together a list of things I like, and posting them on Twitter. With trademark wit, the list is called “#Bims10Things” and I am delighted by the number of people who are genuinely into the things I share. The formula is not set, but includes staples: old Hollywood glamour, previously unseen photos of personal faves, music, videos, vintage ads, gifs, very good-looking men and women and always, always, a photo of my obsession, Solange. The exclamations of joy at the list usually take the form of retweets, perhaps with a little note at the beginning or end. People cc in their friends – “look! You’ll love this kitten in a sporran” etc – and others drop me out completely, leaving only the hashtag as a marker of its origin. There is a loudness to their consumption of the list – “come, share this further” is the feeling I get – which marks it as a clearly public activity.
Earlier this week, back in the old year, I tweeted about how full the gyms would be in the next couple of weeks. I joked about sitting at home, caressing a gut (nicknamed Ira) and laughing. I didn’t mean to downplay the relative importance of fitness or imply that those in possession of a sizeable gut cannot be fit. I was just pointing out my own laziness and lack of motivation when it comes to a ‘right-and-tight’ body. I was also, in a sort of cowardly way, laughing at the clear display of hope over experience. The scene at the gym is nothing new – every January, driven by the overindulgence at Christmas, swimming pools and gymnasiums fill up with enthusiastic punters, either luxuriating in a shiny new membership, or a holding a renewed commitment in their hearts and minds. The queue for the treadmill and the wall of occupied lockers is a physical manifestation of the thought: “I will be better.” The gym is a handy example, but it’s everywhere you look, this reckless, no-basis-in-reality optimism. I mock it, but deep down, I love the hope that needs to exist in order for the scene to occur. The hope of a new year is magical, transformative. It is, in my limited view, one of the things that makes us human.
If you are a writer, and one day find yourself in a classroom with other adults, learning a foreign language, you will not be able to help yourself. You will inevitably—joylessly, even—start to narrate the activities happening around you in the voice of David Sedaris. It will sneak up on you, this tendency, until you are fully submerged in it. You may find that your inner voice has changed accents when you weren’t paying attention. You’ll find yourself giving your classmates nicknames, initially temporary to help you identify who’s butchering the new language alongside you, but then later, because you’ve come to like the slightly waspish nicknames you’ve bestowed on them. “Sharp Italian” will remain as is, and so will “Indecipherable American” and “Serious Spaniard”. You will imagine these nicknames when you tell people how your classes are going.