Inserting Citations Has Saved My Degree

21 Sep

I’m sort of a little bit in love with this one random feature on Word 2013. I know that sounds properly nerdy, but anyone who has ever had to do an academic essay will totally understand.

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So basically, I can insert citations with one click. Then at the end of the essay, I can click another button, and it does my bibliography for me, in whatever style I want – Harvard, Cambridge, whatever.

When I first mention a source, I just have to input the data. Image

 

 

After that, whenever I mention that author again, I just have to click Insert Citation and then their information, and it automatically puts the text in for me, like this. After I’ve written the essay, I just go here, pick my style of bibliography… 

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And then in literally a second…

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Am I crazy/lame for really loving this? I’m just so excited about not allowing for an hour of inwardly sobbing while I go through each book I’ve used finding all the random info… then finding out it’s an edited volume and having to do it all again. JUST THINK OF THE EXTRA DRINKING TIME.

 

We Need New Names

3 Jul

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo is a remarkable and poignant debut for the Zimbabwean writer; written entirely without quotation marks, it repeatedly and harshly reminds the reader of the voice of Darling, the 10 year old protagonist, as she views atrocities and complexities of life both in Africa and the USA. An extension of her winning short story ‘Hitting Budapest’, which won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing, Bulawayos witty yet cynical prose creates a world which is at once beautiful and terrible, under Mugabe’s regime.

The bittersweet novel begins in a shanty town known as ‘Paradise’ in Zimbabwe. Here, Bulawayo contrasts childish games and stealing of guavas (and consequently stomach problems) with a vivid and harrowing image of life for the children of the slums. They witness (and experience) rape, child pregnancy, dead bodies, AIDS, exploitive preachers… yet the cheeky and fun-loving gang of friends, named Bastard, Godknows, Chipo, Sbho and Stina, persistently act with cheerfulness, childish innocence and a lack of understanding of what they are really experiencing.

weneednewnames

It is tempting, I think, for authors who wish to explore such issues, to create very dark, angst ridden books with the aim of stirring emotion. But, for me, the scene that gave me chills, that gave me a deep, cold, heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach, was not the devastating descriptions of a dying AIDS victim, but of the children, desperate to have their old friend Chipo back, trying to work out how to get rid of her pregnant stomach, forced upon her by her grandfather.

The second half of the novel moves to America, where themes of loss of identity, western poverty, racism, cultural clashes and the sexualisation of young girls are explored. Bulawayo successfully shows the contrast and interaction between these two very different worlds, though I feel that the second half of the novel in particular seems rushed – each individual issue in this novel could warrant its own 300 story. By the time Darling has reached America, the passion and vibrancy of the narrative is gone… which was possibly the point.

Nevertheless, I regard We Need New Names as one of the most powerful and well-written books I have read this year, I would happily and passionately fight for it to be taught in schools.

9/10

Man of Steel – Movie Review, mild spoilers

24 Jun

 

I’m so conflicted about this movie. I have so many issues that I want to address, and so much that really bugged me, but I can’t deny that it was an enjoyable film – it certainly wasn’t bad, even though the amount of criticism I have for it really piles up.

I’ll start with the good stuff to remind myself why I did actually like it. Firstly, the visuals easily make this film. They are stunning. The fight sequences, imaginative locations and expertly done CGI honestly make it a captivating watch – very colourful, very exciting, at times very beautiful. The plot line too, is well done. I often struggle with these sort of films because I feel like they rely on people having a general background knowledge, but the plot was easy to follow, had a clear direction without being too predictable, and was interesting enough for even those of us who just don’t get superhero films.

Acting ability was mixed. Henry Cavill (Clark Kent/ Kal-El… also a bit of a John Travolta look alike… just me? Oh…) was good, but didn’t particularly stand out to me – at times he felt a little flat, but I feel like that was due to writing, which I will discuss later. He was very good at looking determined and serious.

Kal-El

Amy Adams (Lois Lane) was a little irritating, but I wasn’t sure if that was her or just my grumpiness regarding the clichéd character; regardless, she was convincing in her role and I was pleased that she didn’t seem overly sexualised, although she did fall into the age-old trope of appearing like a strong intelligent woman at the start of the film, then promptly spending the rest of it screaming and falling a lot. Easily the best actor was Russell Crow as Jor-El. He was quite captivating, and spoke with passion and sincerity, even adding an element of humour at times without reducing the character to comic relief. He deserved all the screen time he got and more, if I’m honest.

One thing I was very disappointed with was the characterisation of Zod. Michael Shannon is a good actor, so I’m not sure if this was a result of writing, the character or his ability, but I just really didn’t buy into it. “He’s meant to be a fanatic, not scary like the Joker,” my boyfriend reminded me, which I had to admit was true, but I just couldn’t take him seriously. He felt more like a minor nuisance than a real threat – I felt like the more dangerous character was Faora-Ul, played by the talented Antje Traue, who appeared strong and formidable as she stared at those vainly trying to shoot her. Traue certainly upstaged Shannon in this respect; Zod felt cartoonish, yet Faora was still his subordinate, which, yes, is canon, but felt frustrating when she was clearly so much stronger.

Look at her, you can just tell she's the brains behind the whole operation but can't break through that kryptonite ceiling.

Look at her, you can just tell she’s the brains behind the whole operation but can’t break through that kryptonite ceiling.

I think this comes down to my biggest bug about the film; the terrible writing. It’s such a shame because there was so much that was good about the movie, and the actors were superb actors in themselves but they could only work with what they were given, and what they were given was a script full of terrible, cheesy lines that didn’t make sense.  Examples:

“There’s only one way this ends, Kal, either I die or you do.” – Zod. That’s two ways, but don’t worry, I get that you’re very busy and you don’t have time for maths.

“Where did you train? On a FARM?!” – Zod. This made me burst out laughing because I started thinking of Zoolander and centres for ants. Sorry Zod, it’s just the way you said it… you know, like a petulant child.

“You know they say it all goes downhill after the first kiss, right?” – Lois Lane. No. Who says that? I have literally never heard that, it is the most ridiculous and weird thing to say after a kiss. Way to kill the mood, Lois.

And the worst one, the big line that left me fuming – the female army officer giggling like a little girl and explaining to her colleague, “I’m sorry, Sir, I just think he’s kinda HAWT!”

Are you seriously telling me that women are so ridiculous that after training to a senior and important position within the army, dealing with life threatening situations after the entire city has been trashed and the world has been threatened by aliens, that she would be reduced to a helpless, giggly twelve-year-old at the mere sight of Superman? Screw you, Synder, we don’t need to be told that Henry Cavill is hot, we can see that for ourselves. You don’t need to insult every woman, particularly those in the armed forces, by implying that we are utterly useless at the sight of an attractive man. Believe it or not, we care about other stuff than getting a husband. In fact, the film was pretty poor for it’s portrayal of women all round – it barely scrapes a pass on the Bechdel test, and with the exception of Faora, all the women need saving All. The. Time. Infuriating.

In conclusion, this was a good film let down horrifically by the script writers and Zak Snyder. 6/10

Zombie Owlbreak

22 Jun

WWZ

As far as zombie films go I tend to be a little dubious. I get easily infuriated with the mindless stupidity of characters and attempts at avoiding clichés (they’re not zombies, they’re infected with rage…) fool no one. So it was refreshing to watch a film which acknowledged the stereotypes of ‘zombie lore’ in an interesting way and in which the characters genuinely seem to react both realistically and intelligently to dangerous situations.

The man of the hour was of course Brad Pitt, who, as per usual acted superbly in the role of Gerry Lane. It was, as usual, a typical Hollywood method of having a lone reluctant hero rather than a complex cast, but with the suggestion of WWZ developing into a trilogy there could be room for development. In addition, although he was the usual reluctant hero it was nice to have the motivation of doing it for the good of the world as well as to protect his family, rather than stumbling into it or avenging the deaths of his wife/girlfriend/some other random female written in purely to die. His family does the job of being a motivator without become a source of pain to emotionally cripple him purely for the sake of pseudo character development. Though, admittedly, it does occasionally get a little boring watching his family, under no threat whatsoever, get mildly bullied by Those Big Mean Army Guys on the boat, and his wife, a fairly flat 2D character stand up for herself and her kids in no way whatsoever. Like, literally she just nods along with everything and her range of emotions bounces between “I’m frightened, but I will compose myself!” and “I will smile serenely because I have hope!”

Even if this female character is depressingly stereotypical, the movie makes up for it through the awesome character of Segen, who is just badass. Played superbly by relatively new Israeli actor Daniella Kertesz, she is a strong female who is not over-sexualised, but neither is she inherently unfeminine. She has an awesome short haircut, but she is not dressed up to look like a boy, she doesn’t act like a guy, she isn’t over the top dark and edgy – she is just a BADASS WOMAN. How cool and refreshing is that? She saved Brad Pitt’s ass on at least three separate occasions, even if it was a little understated, but she wasn’t portrayed as some girl who isn’t like other girls, you know? Kertesz is fantastic as well, I really hope we see more from her. It is a shame that there isn’t a huge amount of character backstory – some mystery is given to her when Pitt tries to find out her name, but otherwise she’s fairly quiet. Hopefully in future films she’ll develop a little more. Because. I. Actually. Love. Her.

LOOK AT HOW BADASS SHE IS

LOOK AT HOW BADASS SHE IS

In terms of cinematography, the film was shot very well. The first half of the film is by far the stronger – brilliant camera work manages to capture the chaos and confusion of action scenes, without boring you with endless blurred images where you can’t see what’s going on at all – let’s be honest, no one actually likes shaky cam. Filming took place in the UK and Malta (even the scenes in Philly were actually shot in Glasgow!) and on the whole there are some really beautiful locations and scenes. Musically, the soundtrack was good at creating suspense, though it was a little too close to sounding like Inception to be original.

The second half of the film seems weaker, as if all the budget was blown on the first half. Perhaps because the thing with zombie lore is that the fear is created by fear of the majority – fear of the minority works for bad guys like vampires, demons and serial killers. By the second half, we don’t have the endless hordes of zombies piling on top of each other and swarming. Instead, it feels like a video game – sneaking past them and killing them one at a time. A little disappointing, and perhaps due to last minute juggling of writers. Generally, however, the great visuals and easy to follow plot makes it an enjoyable watch, though my boyfriend assures me that it is a poor adaption of the book, which takes a much more global scale.

All in all, worth a watch, though perhaps with limited rewatch value. I look forward to the sequels, though I’m not sure where else they can take it, and I really hope there’s more of Segen. Because I. Really. Really. Love. Her.

Verdict: 8/10

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