Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Bechdel Test-Passing Movies to Watch on Netflix Now: Part 1

Bechdel Test Passing Movies to Watch on Netflix

In 2015 I'm making it a point to watch more films that pass the Bechdel test (that is, that contain at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man). For a while now I've been getting more and more bothered by the obvious absence of women in some much of our popular culture - especially film. 

While lots of my favourite TV programmes have female protagonists and/or casts that are well balanced in terms of gender (I'm thinking of shows like The Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks & Recreation and Orange is the New Black), I'm consistently disappointed by films. Nowadays, I can't help doing a quick mental check of movie posters that I pass on the tube, or see on the sides of buses, and 9 times of of 10 it's the same thing - a cast of all men, or all men and a single woman. Sigh. 

The more I make a concerted effort to choose films with meaningful female characters, the more I realise how much I like watching stories in which my gender is actually represented. Films that don't only focus on the stories of men. I don't think it had dawned on me before, but it's a little... wearing, to watch film after film with one half of the population inexplicably missing, or relegated to the sidelines in minor roles. I want to see myself represented as the hero (or even the anti-hero), not the prize. 

With that in mind, I thought I'd compile a list of some fab films available to stream on Netfix (UK or US) which pass that Bechdel test. If you live in the UK and want to watch something on the US Netflix, or vice versa, a handy Google Chrome plugin called Hola will let you do just that. 

In no particular order, but very roughly categorised into 'serious' and 'funny', here's the first instalment: 

Serious 

Short Term 12 (2013) UK/US

A difficult watch at times, I'd still really recommend checking out this story about the staff and residents of a children's foster care facility. Well-acted with a complicated female protagonist, and comfortably passes the test.

Winter's Bone (2010) UK

A young Jennifer Lawrence is the strong lead in this gritty, sparse film. Not a walk in the park to watch (brutal at points, in fact) but a gripping story with some excellent performances.

Funny

Clueless (1995) UK/US

The 90s gem that bought us such classic exchanges as "Why should I listen to you, anyway? You’re a virgin who can’t drive" - "That was way harsh, Tai" and taught a generation of young women the word 'sporadically'. I watched my Clueless VHS (yes kids, I said VHS) so many times as a tween it started to wear out, so imagine how happy I was to find it on Netflix. 

The Sapphires (2012) US

Sentimental and a bit predictable, I still enjoyed this feel-good movie. Inspired by a true story, the film follows four young Aboriginal women who tour Vietnam entertaining the troops as soulful girl group The Sapphires. A tad schmaltzy, but has some infectious musical numbers and passes the Bechdel test by a mile.

Chasing Amy (1997) US

Surprisingly only just passes the test, but I'm a fan of this movie for exploring the the fluidity of human sexuality and having multiple gay characters without culminating in tragedy.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999) US


The film that asked the big questions ("I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?"). With a young Julia Stiles as the deliciously acerbic, Plath-reading, Bikini Kill-listening, no-bullshit-accepting Kat, this film provided one of my first feminist role models in a way that my adolescent-brain could get to grips with. Plus: baby-faced Heath Ledger! Baby-faced Gordon Levitt! Shakespeare! Quivering members! Flash-mobbing before it was a thing!

Zombieland (2009) UK

Awesome, funny zombie movie with Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin playing kick-ass characters. Oh, and a pretty brilliant Bill Murray cameo. What's not to like? Actually, I might go re-watch it right now... 

Mystic Pizza (1988) US

Perm-tastic coming-of-age movie starring a young Julia Roberts and Lili Tyler. High fluff factor, but good for passing a rainy afternoon. Worth watching for Roberts' glorious 80s eyebrows alone.



Part two to follow! 


Image source: Flickr CC Wildebeast1 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Reasons To Be Grateful: February


Some things that I've felt grateful for in February: 

  • The kindness of friends. How I got lucky enough to have such an awesome group of people around me, whose out-and-out goodness never fails to amaze and humble me, I'll never know. (Okay, soppy monologue over, sorry, sorry). 
  • Very large cups of tea. Like, VERY large. Pug head large.
  • This song, which I've probably listened to once a day (conservative estimate). SHAKE. IT. OFF.
  • This whole album, which bought back memories. Hot damn No Doubt were good.
  • My body, for making me realise maybe I shouldn't be so hard on it after all. For showing me it can hold plank positions in super heated yoga studios, power through before-work spin classes, steal a couple of points from someone much better at squash than me. Good on you, body.
  • The 5 year anniversary of the lovely book club I attend (this one, in case you're wondering). Which makes me feel both old and happy at the same time.
  • Hot water bottles. Our warming rubbery buddies.  
  • Being grown up enough to take a second chance when it was offered. 



Monday, 23 February 2015

Motivational Monday #4



















The Holstee Manifesto makes me smile every time I read it. Even if I'm in a meh mood, I find I can't get to the end of it without feeling at least a little pumped. Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion. Amen. 

If you need a bit more Holstee Manifesto in your life, you can buy it as a poster or simply download for free as a background for your desktop/phone/tablet. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Coconut Raspberry Cupcakes with a Jammy Centre



A good friend of mine had a birthday recently and - as I am a strong believer that every birthday should feature lashings of cake - I decided it was utterly, completely, 110% necessary to whip up something sweet and pretty. I landed on the idea of coconut cupcakes with a tasty secret - little jammy raspberry centres. It's not difficult to give your cupcakes a surprise middle, and it's a real crowd pleaser move. I'm happy to say they went down a treat.*



Coconut Raspberry Cupcakes with a Jammy Centre 


To make a large batch of cupcakes (around 18)

Weigh 4 large eggs in their shells, then use the same amount of:
 - plain flour
 - caster sugar
 - unsalted butter, room temperature
50g dessicated coconut
3 level tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk
good raspberry jam (a few tbsps)
optional: pink food colouring, to desired strength

For topping

100g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g icing sugar
50g dessicated coconut
optional: coloured sprinkles

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180oC/160oC fan assisted.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar (i.e. mix the hell out of them until well-combined and light in colour).
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add the eggs into the butter/sugar mixture one at a time. Each time you add an egg, add a spoonful of the flour mixture as well (to stop the mixture curdling).
  5. With the last egg, add in the vanilla extract (and food colouring if using). Mix until combined, but don't go to town on it. Over working a batter can make your cakes tough.
  6. Spoon mixture into cupcake cases and bake for 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown and springy to the touch. Transfer cakes to baking rack to cool. 
  7. When cooled, using an apple corer and a twisting motion, remove about an inch of the middle of a cupcake. Cut this piece in half and discard the bottom half (into your mouth). Spoon a small amount of jam into the hole, and pop the little cake stopper back in. Repeat with each cupcake.
  8. To make the buttercream, beat together the butter and icing sugar well. Like, real well. Use a knife to apply the buttercream to the cupcakes. 
  9. Pour some dessicated coconut on a plate (and mix in some coloured sprinkles if you're using them). Press the top of each cupcake into the coconut, rolling around to cover all of the buttercream.  
  10. Eat your pretty pretty coconutty cupcakes. 





*Author's note: I don't think any of my IRL friends really read this blog, but just in case - Duncan 'coconut tastes like shit' Palmer - this one's for you.

More cupcake recipes:

Amaretto Sour Cupcakes
Lemon Poppy Seed Drizzle Cupcakes
Zesty Lemon Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream Frosting 


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