FILM REVIEW: ‘The True History of the Kelly Gang’

Film, Reviews

Last Friday, The True History of The Kelly Gang, a drama/crime film directed by Justin Kurzel (who also directed Macbeth (2015)) was released. The film is an adaptation of the book by Peter Cary, the plot is described as –


“Set against the badlands of colonial Australia where the English rule with a bloody fist and the Irish endure, Ned Kelly (George MacKay) discovers he comes from a line of Irish rebels called the Sons of Sieve, an uncompromising army of cross dressing bandits immortalized for terrorizing their oppressors back in Ireland. Nurtured by the notorious bushranger Harry Power (Russell Crowe) and fueled by the unfair arrest of his mother, Ned Kelly recruits a wild bunch of warriors to plot one of the most audacious attacks of anarchy and rebellion the country has ever seen.”


The film is loosely about true events although the film states in the first frame that nothing you are about to watch is true then continuing ironically into the next slide with the title stating that it is a ‘True History’. Although the film is about the Australian outlaw and bushranger, the film focuses more on the questions of who is telling the story, why they are telling it and questioning whether it is the truth after all whose to say what is the truth. It deals with misinformation and appropriation of history in the context of the time of one of Australias most legendary figures (in which there is a lot of speculation surrounding it). Ned Kelly is revered as a hero due to his defiance against discrimination and corruption but he was also a convicted police murderer – the film looks at how figures of history are perceived based on the perspective that is given. In this film Ned Kelly ‘writes his own history’ in writing to his unborn daughter suggesting that in order to acquire the truth we must also write our own and share our own personal perspectives.

I saw the film at Picturehouse, Fulham Road and there was a Q&A with George Mackay who plays Ned Kelly and Earl Cave who plays one of his brothers, Dan Kelly, afterwards. Many people in the audience who asked questions were Australian which made me and my friend, Helen, who I went with think even more about the importance of a film like this one because as British people we had not heard a lot about Ned Kelly. Whereas for Australians, Ned Kelly is this icon whose stories are legend a little like our Robin Hood or America’s Jesse James. And yet the Australian history is also a lot to do with British history – it was the Irish convicts who were sent over with English guards who often were violent and ruthless. One of the questions we asked was what the actors had learnt about the actual true history of the Kelly Gang. They said that a lot of the research they did was more into the Irish background of the family and into Irish politics in the late 1800’s. Mackay told how when speaking to an Irish guide before filming that he realised how little he actually knew of Irish politics beginning to talk about the ‘Protestants and the catholics’ and then realising that his knowledge ended there. Similarly, Helen and I thought about how little we knew of a country who is in part a part of Great Britain and a country that is so close to ours. We are given select pieces of history growing up, never given the full picture or the multiple perspectives that history has.

In the Q&A, the actors also brought up their nationalities – both are English although MacKay did seem to try to push the fact that he has some Australian heritage. It’s interesting because this also adds to the fact that English people are still playing a part in telling Ned Kelly’s story. Perhaps Kerzel purposefully cast the film in order to show that change still needs to take place.

Ned Kelly is portrayed in a very human way looking at him as a child (played by Orlando Shwerdt whose performance is phenomonal, he completely embodies the characteristics of older Ned ) and showing him becoming a ‘man’. The older Ned is played by MacKay who is also excellent in it, physically embodying the character (if you have seen the film you’ll know what I mean when you see the part in front of the Union Jack) and adding a level of emotion you wouldn’t expect contrasting a very masculine presence with a much softer inner one.

The film also stars Russel Crowe as Harry Power, a character that acts as a little comic relief in the film and acts as Ned Kellys teacher on how to be a ‘man’ and the gang leader he was going to become.The film also focuses a lot on portrayals of Australian masculinity, it shows these gang members who wear dresses into battle claiming that nothing scares a man like seeming feminine or seeming in madness.

I thought that there were quite a few similarities with William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in this regard. Like Hamlet, Ned Kelly in this film goes seemingly mad in order to deal with the situation that has been presented to him – both characters have to detach themselves in order to take action. Also like in Hamlet there are a lot of deaths, and this is quite a gory film (given an 18 rating for a reason) showing explicitly how some of the characters were killed.

Due to this violent and chaotic approach critics on Rotten Tomatoes have said that

“Its unusual approach won’t be for all viewers, but True History of the Kelly Gangtakes a distinctively postmodern look at Australia’s past.”

Rotten tomatoes (81%)

I would agree with this as I know some people might find some of the scenes to gory or too explicitly violent. Helen and I did leave the cinema feeling a little baffled by it but in a good way I think because it really made you think as a viewer about what you had just seen. Afterwards we had to sit down to have a chat and unpack it – personally I love films that give that affect because they really make you think and have an impact on you.

Overall, this was a really great movie that I feel everyone should watch even if its just to get the message of it. I truly have never seen a film like it, a film that demands so much from its audience; demanding for you to not be escaping within its world but to be wary of the fictional quality of the story. A mindset that is so important for now in our world of ‘fake news’ and rapid consumerism of so called facts.

10 REVISION TIPS from an A level student

accaliasmith.com

Revision sometimes can feel like a huge mountain to climb as you look at the piles of notes you’ve made throughout the year (hopefully!) and wonder where on earth to begin. Here are a few of my tips I have acquired from years of revising for GCSE and A level that hopefully may help you take the first steps to tackling that mountain.

  1. Download a free app to help you focus and not get distracted from the notifications pinging up or your own temptation to have a “little” scroll on your instagram feed! – One of my favourites which I recently discovered from a friend is Flora, an app which you can set the time you want to spend revising and will block any notifications from coming on your phone. You are also ‘growing’ a tree whilst you focus, if you break your target focus time the tree will die – you can even put money on it as extra motivation for you not to break focus! It’s even great for the environment because the money you loose goes to planting real trees around the world. This app is also great because you are creating a competition with yourself, the more you focus the more trees you will ‘grow’ and the further you can ‘travel’ around the world. Perhaps not the best of descriptions but download the app for free and you can discover for yourself what I mean.

2. Start with the subject/topic you are WORST at. Tackle the most difficult topics first by making summaries, drawing diagrams if it is a difficult concept or creating mind maps that you can plaster all over your wall. If you aren’t sure which topics to begin with do a whole bunch of practice questions then mark it yourself to see where there are areas you aren’t picking up the marks and make a list with a tally beside it – often you may see a pattern begin to form, the one with the highest tally is the topic to start with!

3. Snacks. You need fuel when revising so choose a snack of choice (like peanuts, fruit or these incredible Biscuiteers biscuits which my Mum Kindly gave me to wish me good luck (a great gift if you know someone going through exams in the near future)). Obviously, healthier snacks are better for your brain but lets be honest, when slaving away over your revision notes fruit and veg isn’t often the snack thats going to keep us going is it? Sometimes id even use food as a work and reward system – so I’d set maybe 40 minutes on my timer (refer to my first tip), then once I had completed it reward myself with a slice of cake or a biscuit – I didn’t do this all the time but sometimes when you really need a motivational boost this would really help. Similarly id do this with other things I love like revise for 5 hours then id allow myself to watch a film or go to the cinema. Try out whatever works for you and motivates you to keep going!

4. Keep your big WHY in your mind at all times.

Maybe create a vision board for you to look at to remind you exactly WHY you are putting yourself through this. Your ‘BIG WHY’ can be anything from a dream career, or to get into your dream university or simply to give you more options in your life. Collect images of everything you love or want from your future and stick them in a notebook or on a big piece of paper and figure out exactly what you want from your life – this doesn’t mean you have to have your whole life figured out! Who knows where we are going to be in 5, 10, 20 years time – we don’t know where life will take us or what we will want then, but we can figure out what we love now and have a few ideas of things we might want then. For me, I would gather pictures of travelling, of books (because I want to study English literature) of art, of films and writers, of inspiring quotes, of the sky (because it makes me feel calm), of clothes I wish I could afford, of places I would dream of living in etc. We are all different and have different things that drive us to do the things we do – do you want to be wealthy, do you want to lead a creative life, do you want to lead a stress-free life, do you want to own your own business, do you want to make a change? There are so many questions to ask yourself about what YOU want from life. And the answers to these questions will help you figure out your ‘why’ and this should help motivate you to keep going through your studies.

5. Test yourself frequently.

This may sound obvious but often this is the step we forget, we end up bogged down by all our revision notes that we don’t really know what we know and we don’t. What I did was revise a topic, make notes on a mind map, watch a ‘Snaprevise video’ then sit with a blank piece of paper and my spec and write out all that I can remember. Where there are areas I know I have forgotten i’d put a line or write in a different colour ‘something about….’ then go back to it at the end saying the pieces of information over and over in my head and rewriting it out. Its also a good idea to do past paper questions so that you can think like the examiner and feel more prepared, Snap revise is really good for this too because after going over a topic they will guide you through some potential past paper questions showing how they got to their answer and how to approach different kinds of questions. (I only used Snaprevise for Biology though, so I wouldn’t be able to say how useful it is for any other subject – I chose not to use it for English Lit because English is more of an ‘opinion forming’ subject, as in there is no definitive answer.

A few Subject Specific tips…

I studied English Literature, Biology and Art at A level, three very different subjects I know, and each required very different revision methods.

For English I found it useful watching adaptations for the plays, the more the better particularly as for our exam board we got marked for our wider reading, and also summary videos (the best ones I found were by Crash Course literature on YouTube – they also gave you critical opinions which were really useful). My second tip would be to talk to some of your classmates, talking to other people about the books you are studying means you can share ideas and gain some you hadn’t though of or be able to argue their opinion – a line of argument you could potentially use in your exam. My third and final tip would be to do as many past paper questions as you can, even if you just do essay plans, just so you can get to grips with quickly forming ideas and a line of argument.

For Biology, Its all about ensuring you really understand and remember the content and that you are able to know exactly what the examiner wants from the questions in your answers. For me, my best friend was Snaprevise as they went through example questions and really quickly summarised all the topics linking them to all the other topics at the same time. I also went to a SnapRevise course in London at Imperial Collage earlier this year for some extra revision – they were really long days but I do feel that it was real helpful although it wasn’t exam board specific like the videos so occasionally I did find myself thinking ‘Do I need to know this? I don’t think I’ve heard of that before’ so I did have to clarify a few things with my teacher after.

Art is mostly coursework so the biggest piece of advice I have is to keep on top of it – i’m a fairly fast worker so for me it was mostly about keeping up a certain standard of quality in my work but so many others struggled with the sheer volume of work to do.

So that is my top 5 tips (with a few extra!), I hope they were helpful, if you have any specific questions then feel free to leave them in the comments below 🙂

And if you are doing exams or are expecting results this summer – Good Luck!!!

Do we & Should we have Freedom Of Speech?

accaliasmith.com, Thoughts

Scrolling through Twitter earlier this month I saw this tweet from Stig Abell which Comedian Ricky Gervais replied to, and after having seen the video of the ‘nazi’ comments being shouted at to one of our MP’s, It really got me thinking about freedom of speech. Gervais, in this scenario, seems to be an advocate for this freedom whereas Abell does not. And this situation with this MP certainly does add to the argument of the latter, as it is awful that someone can be bombarded with such insults on live TV or on Social media.

This is a topic which is widely debated, freedom of speech means that we are free to make any comments we like without there being any sort of punishment if we go against the consensus; in short, it allows us to openly share our opinions.

So do we have Freedom of Speech now?

I don’t think we do. Yes, we have this freedom to a certain extent, however, increasingly there are campaigns for certain topics or phrases to be banned. Such as talking about ‘Hitler’ as Abell mentioned or racist words, parts of history that we can reflect on and learn from the past.

Should we have freedom of Speech?

I think we should. Being able to express our own individual opinions is part of it and weather we think someones opinion is right or wrong it is completely subjective and so we can either have the freedom or not have the freedom. Personally, I cannot think of a world worse than one in which we cannot express what we think.

In my opinion, banning words and phrases – even if they have negative connotations should never be banned as otherwise we are banning certain aspects of history, it is a respect which we should be trying to cultivate so that this kind of bullying does not occur. For example with the Hitler comments, there will always be other ways to insult somebody – if talking about Hitler and Nazi regime is banned then there will only be another person that they will be compared to. In other words, it should not be freedom of speech which is restricted but freedom of individuality which needs to be accepted.

One of the campaigns I have seen recently is to get phrases like ‘Bringing home the bacon’ banned – a vegan perspective that meat should not be used in our language like this. But these kinds of phrases have been used for such a long time, they should not be simply banned with people needing to consciously remember which common phrases are not allowed to be used anymore. And this particular phrase is not hurting anybody. To me, when I hear of these kinds of campaigns, It makes me think of ‘Newspeak’ in Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’ which was used by ‘the party’ to constrict peoples thoughts by making it impossible for people to have the words to articulate their thoughts and feelings.

By banning parts of our language we are essentially restricting it, yes, many phrases are offensive to people – no matter who you are, we all often experience bullying, whether that is for your race, your gender, your hair colour or anything else, unless we are all identical bullying is likely to always exist – bullies pick the part of you that makes you unique and different and spin that quality on its head. Bullying is difficult to prevent, it has always been around and restricting our language will only make it worse.

People come up with new phrases all the time to express something they want to say, sometimes it’s a different meaning of a word, sometimes it’s a new word entirely – expanding language is an amazing thing, if Shakespeare never made up all those new words and phrases, imagine how different our world would be now, Restricting language is restricting our freedom.

What do you think? Should we have freedom of speech? Do you feel as though you have freedom of speech? Are the issues we are talking about with freedom of speech actually about bullying in general?

January 2019 Favourites

Favourites

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I hope everyone has had a good start to the New Year (even if you have had a few cheat days on your resolutions!), I can’t believe January is over already, I always find that January is such a sad month, Christmas decorations have come down (Bournemouth gardens almost looks like a war zone!) and everyone is either really motivated to start afresh or a little saddened because the new year isn’t as they had hoped. Its all just a bit cold and wet really. Anyway, despite some January blues, here are a few of my favourites from film and books to clothes and beauty from this month…

Lets start with movies as due the cold and wetness mentioned above there have been quite a few cosy days snuggled up watching a movie whenever I can get the chance…

  1. I watched ‘The Favourite’. Overall it was a cleverly done film, a very alternative take on the period drama – certainly not something I had ever seen before! Some people will love it and others will hate it – it was a bit weird and wacky so if thats your thing I would definitely urge you to go and watch it. Emma Stone and Olivia Coleman were superb in it; definitely worth all the nominations.
  2. NT Live: The Tragedy of King Richard II – this really is theatre rather than a movie but I saw it in the cinema as I couldn’t get up to London to see it. I am a huge fan of Shakespeare’s plays – particularly the histories- and so it may not be to everyones tastes but I loved it. Simon Russell Beale gave a sublime performance as Richard, I thought he was also incredible as Falstaff in The Hollow Crown. It was a different, more modern take on Richard II, really emphasising the timeless themes of the play.
  3. Mary Queen of Scots – I actually really enjoyed it although it has not had the best reviews from critics (scoring 63% on RottenTomatoes), I thought Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie were excellent as Mary and Elizabeth, respectively,  playing the roles as ambitious women who were torn between their heads and their hearts. I have not yet seen such an action packed period movie with female leads in it and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

When I was not quite in the mood for a movie, these were the books I read…

  1. The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller – I cannot rave about this book enough. I read it in just over two days, it was incredibly captivating and a really fascinating take on the Iliad story telling the tale of love between Achilles and Patroclus. (For a full review see my last blog post)
  2. I finished The Handmaid’s Tale; I would recommend it for what it is about but not really for it as an enjoyable or captivating read. It’s dystopian so it is supposed to make you feel a bit uncomfortable and make you question where society is heading.

I have now started reading Millers second book ‘Circe’ which I am really enjoying so far.

I have also had the opportunity to go to the theatre this month and saw Hamilton! Everyone has been raving about this musical from its debut on broadway and the musical was amazing in London – I learnt so much about American history that I might otherwise never had known whilst listening to rather catchy songs.

Talking about songs, here are the new music releases that my ears have been loving…

  1. Florence + the machine, Moderation.
  2. I’ll come to, James Blake
  3. By the way I forgive you, Brandi Carlisle

On to what I have been wearing…

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I LOVE these Office Boots, they add a bit of ‘rock & roll’ to what my sister likes to call my ‘Victorian ghost’ outfit.  They are relatively comfortable but certainly not a shoe I would like to be walking around all day in (they have a pointy toe and have a slight high heel after all!)

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Beauty…

I haven’t really tried out anything new in beauty this month, I am, however, continuing to love the Origins Face mask I mentioned in my 2018 favourites.

Food:

Had a delicious lunch whilst in London at Tom Kerridge’s restaurant – my family didn’t love it so much, they say you can judge any restaurant by the taste of their chips and they weren’t up to their standards! However I really enjoyed my fancy English breakfast style dinner – if breakfast is on the dinner menu, then it is a great restaurant in my eyes!

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Thanks for reading! What were your favourites from January?

BOOK REVIEW: The Song of Achilles

books, Reviews

I think I am off to a good start with my resolutions; of reading the books on my ever growing list. This was one of them –

“The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller.

The story was so captivating I couldn’t wait to pick it back up again and I finished it in just over two days! I know very little of Greek mythology and had no idea about this love story perhaps overlooked by the tales of war in Troy. It is such a tragic but beautiful love story between Achilles and Patroclus, all written in the perspective of the latter. Of the little I knew in Greek mythology, I had heard that Achilles was arrogant and selfish, Miller’s story tells a very different, sensitive side to this legend really examining the ways of human nature, about our motivations, fears and hopes and how they drive us to our fates. It is almost paralleled with Shakespeare, following a similar course to Romeo and Juliet and examining the complexities of human nature.

Overall I would highly recommend this book whether you are a Greek mythology newbie like me, or have a passion and are well read in it, I think that you would enjoy this book if you want a story of love, of pride, of fate, of what it means to be a ‘man’ and of war, this is for you. I have, however, come away with a renewed interest in wanting to learn more about Greek mythology and this part of history.

I am now about to read her second book ‘Circe’ which so many people have been raving about recently – apparently it’s a feminist take on this Greek myth. Have you read it? What did you think?

Join my #bookclub on Instagram and let me know what you are currently reading on instagram 👇

A Chat about Resolutions…

Thoughts

To make or not to make resolutions, that is the question!

I believe that it is good to set goals and why not make new ones each year? You can set out your calendar for the new year and plan how you are going to achieve the goals you want to accomplish and how you can better yourself. I don’t, however, believe in the saying New Year, New You. I used to because I used to think it was useful to think of each year like turning over a new leaf, a fresh start but now I have realised that you are the same you – just like when your grandma asked you how it felt to be a new age, there was no immediate difference, no change but as the year began to go on and you got tasked with new responsibilities you began to feel older. That is how I think of the New Year, setting goals and plans in place to better myself because I am still ‘me’ even though the year has changed. I also believe reflection of the past year is good, the end of a year makes sense to use as a way to judge your own personal success on how much you have worked on being the ‘you’ you want to become.

So what are my ‘resolutions’?

  • To learn how to cook (I kinda know the basics but if I am going to university next year, I think I need to live on more than tomato pasta or beans on toast alone)
  • To be more consistent with my blogging – I love that I have got the opportunity to post my opinions on this platform and I would love to make the time to fit writing into my schedule.
  • To revise! I have got A levels this year and I really would love to get the best grades I can to get into the university of my choice.

As a student, and no ‘real’ career plan I’m really just basing my goals on my studies and doing what I love and hoping that that might bring me to where I want to be. I also have my yearly ‘reading goals’ to read more books outside of my lessons.

My top tips when making your goals / resolutions (whatever we are calling them!)

  1. Make a plan of how you are going to stick to it. If you are thinking of giving up smoking, begin by saying, ‘I’ll have 1 cigarette a day for a week’ then the week after that by saying, ‘i’ll have one every other day’, then ‘one a week’ etc. If you make a plan you are more likely to achieve your goal.
  2. Be realistic about what you can achieve in that year – if you have never really read for pleasure before and set yourself the goal of reading 20 books you are unlikely to achieve it (but set long term, so called ‘unrealistic’, plans too as Walt Disney once said, ‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough!’)
  3. Reward yourself. Every time you reach a milestone, no matter how small, be proud of yourself and give yourself a reward – perhaps your favourite food, or a break somewhere.

I asked some friends and family about what they thought about resolutions…

They consensus was that it is stupid to think that that a new year is the only time that you can change things in your life, if you can’t achieve them any other time of the year why will you now? Many feel fed up of making resolutions only to give them all up mid January.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you have an amazing new year and that you achieve all your goals! Spend New Year’s Eve happy about what you have achieved thus far, be proud of yourself!

See you for my 2018 review and what I am looking forward to next year up at midnight tonight!

 

10 Gift Ideas For Any Occasion

Beauty, Fashion, Favourites

With Christmas just around the corner you’re probably thinking about what to get for the special people in your life. It can be difficult buying presents for people for any occasion particularly if you are under a tight budget. Here are a couple of my favourite unique finds…

christmas gift ideas pinterest graphic.png

For the Tavel lover – Scratch Map

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They can scratch off the places they’ve been on the map and plan trips they hope to go to. The idea is that they will try to scratch off as many places as they can. I have one of these my self and I love it.

If they are a student there are loads of gap year and bucket list books by lonely planet that you can get on amazon or any good book store.

For the book worm – Book cover locket

I think these are so unique, they do a variety of book covers so you could find their favourite classic novel to put on to the locket.

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For the film lover – popcorn machine and bags

I mean it is their own cinema at home!

or for the person who wants to get into movies… a scratch off 100 bucket list movies poster 

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(photo from amazons website linked above) 

For the music lover – (if they have vinyls) a vinyl frame, new earphones or portable speaker. For the person who I into hearing all the classics there is also a scratch off 100 albums bucket list poster.

For anyone – books

I don’t think anyone can go wrong with a book, it can be about anything they are interested in from gardening to traveling. There are loads of thoughtful books on Urban outfitters if you need some ideas.

 For the fashion aficionado – The new fashion rules by Victoria Magrath

I have followed Victoria’s blog for a long time now and she has the most amazing style and knowledge of fashion – definitely something a fashion lover would love to delve into.

For the Make up addict – Makeup storage or a set from their favourite brand. ASOS do some great ones by a variety of brands or if you want to go more upmarket SpaceNK do some beautiful sets as well from bath and body to lipstick and eyeshadows.

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For the foodie – something for the kitchen or you can get books of the best places to eat in different cities.

For the sentimental – A photo book

I recommend Snapfish as I have used them before – the quality is really good and they are the cheapest company I can find that do them. I did one for my Dad documenting all the places we had travelled to and adventures we had been on. You can customise the pages yourself, adding text, changing the layout of the pictures and the background.

For anyone – Candles or bath things

Everyone likes gifts that they can use to relax. My favourite bath oils are from Aromatherapy – they can be a bit pricy but smell amazing.

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I hope this little guide helps! Do you have any go to or unique gift ideas that you love? Tell me in the comments 🙂

Thank you so much for reading!