Category Archives: films.books.music

Review: The Outpost

This is the first time I have reviewed a magazine, but it is so outstanding that it deserves to be treated as more than just a magazine. The Outpost is an exceptional publication coming from Beirut. Being Lebanese, and of the same generation as the magazine’s target, it would seem biased for me to feel this way, and perhaps that is what has given me & many other twenty-something year olds from the region a deep connection to its content. However, the increasing recognition & positive international reviews the magazine is receiving, illustrates that it is of superior caliber as an independent publication in its own right. That it comes from Beirut & focuses on the Middle East is just a bonus. Having only just published its fourth issue, it is already being sold in cities across the global including London, New York & Sydney.

the outpost

The Outpost has a purpose. It gives the youth and generation of those who have lived & who are living there, through the continuous turmoil of the Middle East, a voice. A voice not readily heard by those outside the region & a voice of truth; one that is raw and full of integrity, and most of all full of possibility. It expresses the struggles of those who live there and resurfaces the nostalgic feelings of us who have lived there. It magnifies special nuances of the Middle East that many of us have unconsciously experienced and gives them life. A poignant, bittersweet reminder of what is, what was and what could be. A culmination of fact and fiction, with an exceptional high standard of writing & prose, or simply put “words”.

Organized in such a way that each issue is based around a theme, with the most recent being “The possibility of getting lost”, every page is mesmerizing and tackles conglomeration of social, cultural, historical, political and contemporary issues with thought provoking, sophisticated detail and design.

It is uncensored and honest, putting a spotlight on the Arab youth and its contemporary culture with creative complexity. Paired with a high standard of visual design, photography and vintage advertisements from the Arab world, each page is rich with meaning.

For the Middle East, it offers the unaware a possibility to discover, while giving many of us, the possibility of being heard.

Film Review: A Cat in Paris

Sometimes, you’re just in the mood for cartoons with a cat. And I don’t mean tom & jerry. This cute animation, A Cat in Paris, is the story of a cat who runs around Paris at night with a burgalar, assisting him in robbing apartments by moonlight. During the day, the cat returns to his owner, a sweet little French girl, for some TLC & snooze time. If you’re a cat lover, and still a child at heart, you will enjoy this French cartoon. Although you can also find it in English, or with subtitles. One of those family movies that everyone likes.  Especially for the cat people!

Watch the trailer here.

A Cat in Paris

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Book Review: Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf

First publisLeo the Africanhed 25 years ago, Leo Africanus (also called Leo the African) is a timeless, captivating classic. It is based on the true life of Hasan Al-Wazzan, the 16th century traveler and writer, who explored and travelled the Mediterranean throughout his life time. He witnessed the fall of Granada, the blossoming of Fez, the Ottoman conquest of Egypt and Renaissance in Rome. It is divided into four parts: The book of Granada, the book of Fez, The book of Cairo and finally, the book of Rome. Yet this is not a dry historical novel, it is a masterful piece of history inspired by the real-life Al-Wazzan. The history is accurate and the character real, but read like fiction…it is a mix of adventure, travel, exotic tales, war, love and self-discovery. Amine Maalouf truly captures the zeitgeist of what it was like to live and exist in the Arab world over 500 years ago… 

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Film Review: Curfew

Curfew is a short film from writer/director, Shawn Christensen, who also stars in this movie. Not surprisingly it won best live action short film at the Oscars earlier this year…I got to see it at last years BFI Film Festival in London & it was really great. It starts off with a 20 something year old man in the bathtub, wrists slit and waiting to die. Until he gets a phone call. He decides to answer it, and it is his sister asking him to babysit for her daughter, urgently. Just this once. Reluctantly, he removes himself from the bathtub, and goes on to babysit the 9-year old.

What follows is an adorable depiction of the relationship between niece and uncle.  The film is only 19 minutes long with beautiful art direction and a great soundtrack. Set in New York, it’s a short that is truly endearing, charming as it is tragic.

Click here to watch the trailer.

curfew_movie_poster-650x0

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Book Review: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

This story goes back and forth between 1930s & present day Edinburgh. In the 1930s, Esme Lennox is sent away to a mental institution on account of her hysteria. Forward to present day Edinburgh where her great-niece is called upon to collect her previously unknown, great-aunt from the same instutition, which is now shutting down. This leaves her niece trying to piece together the puzzle of how she came to live in a mental institution for 60 years. It has the typical O’Farrell style of weaving together two stories from different generations. O’Farrell gives away pieces of information throughout, interweaving past and present until everything comes together in the end, with a signature twist. Set in Scotland, the backdrop adds to the mysteries that continue to unfold throughout the book. It is one of those books that only loosly ties the knot at the end, leaving it up to the reader to fill in some of the blanks. It is quite a short and easy read; it does not even have any chapters. Something that would be good for a week-end beach trip, or a long flight. Although it does not compete with The Hand that First Held Mine, it is an easy-read, quirky novel that leaves you wondering.

Vanishing Act

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Film Review: The Prophet

This is an impressionistic art film of Khalil Gibran’s classic, The Prophet. Directed by Gary Tarn, the film is simply a narration of Gibran’s book, accompanied by moving images of people, places and nature. Narrated by Thandie Newton, the images include clips from from Beirut to New York to parts of Asia. Most of the colour of the film is faded or black and white, and the filming is often shaky, with fleeting moving images of nature and cities, relating to what is being narrated. Watching the film, you are the observer walking through life, and Newton’s soft narration along with the organic filming technique trasports you into a state of mesmerising calm.

It also comes with a dreamy soundtrack.

The Prophet Film poster

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Artist: Bonobo

I have been a big fan on Bonobo after discovering his music in 2008.  In fact I was lucky enough to bump into him hanging out at the bar at a London party last summer (the perks of a big city) & after chatting he told me that his new album is coming out in April and that it will be ‘more up beat’ than the last one’ (words from the musician himself!). Lo & Behold April came and went and his new album is out (man of his word). If you’re unfamiliar with his music, it’s an eclectic mix of smooth beats and various instruments.

Another interesting fact about Bonobo (who’s real name is Simon Green) – he often plays each of the multiple instruments in his tracks himself, and superimposes them digitally during production, slowly building up and adding instruments, vocals (many by the talented szjerdene) and melodies throughout each track. Truly, a talented DJ & musician. Great background and day-dreamy type music.

Here are a few of my favorite all time tracks by him, old & new:

For more Bonobo music & remixes, follow him on sound cloud here.

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Book Review: Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar

This is a beautiful novel that flows between Egypt and Europe, written with lyrical prose. Matar is a phenomenal writer who manages to describe profound emotions in little words. It is the story of a young boy, Nouri who loses his mother at a young age. He soon meets Mona, on a beach in Alexandria while alone on holiday with his father. Mona, who is later to become his step mother, is a young and mesmerizing woman, who he feels extremely drawn to. However, after his father, a respectable and influential man in Egypt gets kidnapped while on business in Switzerland, he and Mona are left to piece together this sudden disappearance, changing their relationship forever. However, this is not a mystery novel, albeit the air of mystery is prevalent throughout. It is a journey the reader goes through with Nouri, exploring relationships, the meaning of loyalty, and ultimately life. It is a story filled with emotion.  Each character is so compelling, it is hard not to be drawn into this novel. Consumed with innocence, love and the unveiling of secrets. Matar, who was nominated for the Man Booker Prize for his novel, In the Country of Men, is an extremely impressive writer who does not disappoint in this magical piece of fiction.

anatomy-of-a-disappearance6

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Book Review: The Examined Life, How we Lose and Find Ourselves by Dr. Stephen Grosz

This is a very interesting non-heavy book if you are interested in psychoanalysis.
Each chapter is an anecdote of a patient that Dr. Stephen Grosz has had throughout his 20+ years career.
The read goes by so quickly and his style of writing is intriguing and captivating. He begins each chapter talking about a patient, giving very brief overview of their history & relationship “I had been seeing Ms. N for four years when she came to me one day…”
He lays out the main issue that him and the patient were tackling, giving away snippets of their conversation as well as how it made him, as a psychoanalyst react. He then continues to explain the conclusion they reached, and the underlying fundamental reason that he came to conclude was the issue with that particular patient (this is usually in the name of each chapter).

There is also quite a few moments of self-reflection which Dr. Grosz writes about, which stems from his experiences with his patients. He even has a chapter on his father.

Dr. Grosz has written an enriching read that confronts the issues of why we act the way we do, and gives suggestions and examples that he has come across throughout career. Perhaps a story will touch you in a certain way and push you to accept or confront an similar issue that arises within yourself, or those you know. Overall an easy read with clear and interesting explanations, not to mention enjoyable, highly recommended!

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90s movie soundtracks from the heart of a teenage girl…

Growing up I was in love with movie soundtracks, it left me thinking and feeling the film long after it had finished. I still feel the soundtrack makes up at least half of the catharsis of a good movie.

So here’s a list of 5 of the top movie soundtracks I loved (and still do) from the 90s (some nostalgia for you there).

1. Romeo & Juliet (with Leo of course) –1996

2. Great Expectations (the art was my favorite part of the movie, and of course Anne Bancroft as Ms. Havisham) – 1998

3. Cruel Intentions (who didn’t watch this as a teenager?) – 1999

4. The Beach (More Leo) – 2000 (close enough)

5. American Beauty (Kevin Spacey…divine) –1999

So here’s a play list compilation of my favorite tracks from each of my favorite movies growing up – what are your favorite movie soundtracks?

Enjoy!

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