Monday, 31 January 2011

Review: Black Swan

Black Swan is centered on the life of virginal dancer Nina, a member of the New York ballet school. Portman plays her near perfectly as she is given the biggest role of her career, to play the lead in Swan Lake. The life she leads is claustrophobic, stuffy, and completely consumed by dancing. Her mother has projected her own hopes and dreams onto her after her own ballet career was cut short after she fell pregnant, resulting in a tendency towards bulimia, scratching at her skin until it bleeds and what starts off a mild psychological disorder.

The narrative of Swan Lake and that of the film soon begin to become more and more entwined. Nina’s innocent persona doesn’t fit with the dual role of the Swan Queen, as she is required to play both the white swan, whom, being graceful, poised and precise, she is naturally more attuned to, and the black swan, the antithesis of the white, ruthless, dark and twisted.

Artistic director Thomas encourages Nina to lose her frigidness, he tells her to look to new dancer Lily (Mila Kunis), who is imprecise, tattooed, smokes, drinks and is free, for inspiration. He also advises her to use masturbation to explore sides of herself she is out of touch with.

Soon Nina’s psychological disorder becomes more exaggerated, the audience is unsure if what we are seeing is real or part of her consciousness as Nina’s transformation into the black swan becomes more consuming. This is perhaps where the brilliance of the cinematography is best represented. A grainy filter, muted colours and shaky point of view shot lets us see through Nina’s eyes, reminiscent of a documentary style of film making, resulting in an, at best tense and at worst terrifying atmosphere. Flashes of Nina’s face are almost seamlessly placed onto the screen, leaving us just as confused as to what is real and what is not as Nina must be.

Overall this film is one of those which stays with you long after your first viewing. You never quite know what is real and what is fake. Hallucinations and mirages crop up so frequently you can never quite relax and the effect is a psychological thriller which will have you engrossed from start to finish. If Portman does indeed win the Oscar for best actress, which I suspect she will, it is definitely deserved. If you watch it expecting a light, delicate film about ballet, you’ll feel short changed. If what you’re after is an uncomfortable, chilling psychological thriller, you won’t be disappointed.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Work Experience: Debenhams Press Office

For the past two weeks I've been doing work experience in the Debenhams Press office. It was a complete change of pace for me, to go from working from home on my own to having to ask "Is there anything do to?" every 5 minutes. The hour commute was also a bit of a shock to the system, as was talking to actual people, all day! But I did learn a lot about how the press office in a global company like Debenhams operates.

There was a massive range in the things I was asked to do. As it was between seasons (the end of autumn/winter and the start of spring/summer) lots of samples which had been sent to press needed to be sorted and returned to their agency who deal with product placement.

There's a special programme designed for managing where all the samples are at any given time called Augure which I was using alot. Journalists will e-mail the press office telling them the types of pieces they're looking to feature and then the press office will pick out pieces which fit the brief and send them over, not before I checked them out on Augure so we can keep track of them. People from magazines and TV programmes will also go into the Oxford Street store to pick things out and I'd also check them out on Augure. After a few trips back and forth to the store it didn't seem quite as fascinating as the first time but carrying the heavy bags definately kept me fit!

[caption id="attachment_378" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Julien MacDonald at the launch of his Diamond line at Debenhams, taken from the Debenhams Facebook page"][/caption]

One of the most interesting parts of my two weeks was possibly going to the press event for the launch of Diamond, Julien Macdonald's youth range to go along with his other slightly older range in Debenhams, Star. The event was organised by another agency Debenhams use and involved letting journalists know about the launch of the range, a swanky bar, giving them cocktails (which were very nice btw!) and a goodie bag . There were a few models wearing the items and Julien Macdonald made an appearance and had his photo taken so all in all it was very interesting.

The press office is primarily concerned with news generation as opposed to product placement (an agency does this), media monitoring (an agency sends across all coverage) or social media (another agency) so the press assistants were always looking for ways they can get interesting stories into the press. Whilst I was there they were working on a release about the increase in popularity of shapewear for men, it was interesting to see the story go from a press release and into coverage in a few of the newspapers and online over night.

An AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent) was then calculated based on the readership of the newspaper and the size and position of the article to work out how much the piece would be worth. I'm not sure how "scientific" this AVE business is but I gather it's a standard in the PR world (although a quick google tells me there are some people who question the value of this measurement, and from where I'm standing it does sound a bit wishy washy.)

Other things I did in my two weeks involved pulling out interesting and relevant stories from the newspapers and magazines every day, writing drafts of biographies about some of the designers at Debenhams, a bit of data entry, collecting samples from the buyers and fulfilling image requests which came into the press office e-mail account.

I'd've liked to have found out a bit more about how the social media side of things works (like the "voice" they use and the types of guidelines they stick to when representing Debenhams online) but this is dealt with by an agency as opposed to in house. I also noticed that whilst they have more than 30,000 followers on Facebook and 6,800 on Twitter, their Klout score is 48. Comparing this to the charity I work on the social media for, we have a higher Klout score but just 500 fans on Facebook and around 1,300 on Twitter. Food for thought...

Overall I had an excellent time at Debenhams and it was well worth the two weeks I spent there. I learnt a great deal about how the press office for a large company works and was working with a lovely team of people. Plus I didn't do any photocopying or make any cups of tea, all in all I'm very pleased I did it and hopefully I'll be able to use the experienced I gained here in the not so distant future!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Spring/ Summer is here!

I am overcome with excitement!

Alright I'm not that excited but it is pretty good that Spring/ Summer is making a very welcome return to the high street, after months of muggy British weather it's been sorely missed.

So what does Spring Summer have in store for us? Here is my run down of my favourite trends for Summer:

1. Skinny capris (As seen at Balmain, Isabele Marant, Hermes)

2. Chunky heels (As seen at Mui Mui, Donna Karen, Victor and Rolf)

3. Crochet (As seen at Emilio Pucci, Gucci, D&G and Julien MacDonald)

4. 1970s Glamour(As seen at Emilio Pucci, Derek Lam)

5. Sheer (Erdem, Chloe, Richard Nicoll)



Sheer by KayleyA featuring flat shoes