I love Gugu Mbatha-Raw!

Last night I was re-watching a movie I had seen some time ago called Beyond the Lights (from 2014). It was an accidental selection but once I started watching I couldn’t stop. I had forgotten how good it was and especially how excellent the lead actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw is!

In Beyond the Lights Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the singer Noni Jean who has shot to fame and has just won a Billboard music award. However, not all that glitters is gold and Noni, once she is alone in her hotel room, tries to commit suicide by getting ready to jump off a balcony. She is saved by a police officer and slowly but surely has to deal with what it was that made her want to jump.

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Yes, it’s a love story as she and the police officer Kaz (Nate Parker) fall in love, but far more than that, it is a story of a young woman who has let herself be swept up to be a certain way and starts figuring out who she really is; it’s about her emancipating herself from her manager-mother (Minnie Driver, also amazing in this!) and it is about finding her own voice, figuratively and literally.

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At some point Noni escapes it all with Kaz and starts to really find herself. At her hideout in Mexico she is not recognized and stands up incognito at a karaoke bar to sing Nina Simone’s ‘Blackbird’ acapella. That performance is mesmerizing and moved me to tears, especially considering all the character has been through up to that point in the story. Here, take a look yourself…

I have also seen Gugu in the excellent 2013 movie Belle, in which she plays Dido Belle, the mixed-race adopted daughter of a judge who lived at Kenwood House in London in the 18th century. It’s the story of Dido trying to find her place in society as a young woman of mixed-race and is set against the backdrop of her father judging a case about slaves who were thrown overboard from a slave ship, with the owners of the ship claiming compensation from insurers. I even fan-girled over the movie when I was in London a year ago.

The film is based on a painting that used to hang in Kenwood House (but is now in Scotland) where, maybe for the first time, a person of colour is portrayed as equal to the white person (and not as a servant or slave). Here the original painting (on the left) and the one featured in the movie…

Gugu is so excellent in this movie and I have seen it quite a few times already. Period drama addressing racism and slavery in England is unusual and I can only highly recommend this one!

I remember noticing Gugu in a small role in the Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts movie Larry Crowne (the movie itself was so-so)…

I even remember first seeing her back in 2008, in a very small part in the very amusing miniseries Lost in Austen, where she plays the (20th century) friend of the main character Amanda…

And Gugu was Plumette in the recent Beauty and the Beast movie..

She is also in a few movies on my I-still-wanna-watch-that list, for instance:

  • Free State of Jones about a man’s armed revolt against the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Once I learned she was in it, it went on my list. The only reason I haven’t watched it yet is because of Matthew McConaughey (he’s a good actor but I’m not a fan).
  • She plays the lead role in Irreplaceable You, out on Netflix. As it’s a film about a woman with terminal cancer, I haven’t been able to watch it yet (ever since I saw the process of dying with my father, I don’t do so well anymore with dramas about someone dying).
  • She’s also in A Wrinkle in Time, a scifi fantasy adventure starring Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon. I missed it in the cinema (apparently it didn’t do so well) but it will be out on DVD soon.
  • I have only just now found out that she also plays in Miss Sloane with Jessica Chastain and Mark Strong. It’s a movie about the gun lobby in the USA and one I’ve already been curious about. Now I have extra incentive to actually watch it soon.

I have seen little bits and pieces of her in the first two films on this little list and that was already looking good. I have a feeling Gugu Mbatha-Raw is slowly worming her way into becoming one of my fave actresses!

More fangirling in London!

Well, not only fangirling, we mostly did touristy stuff… As I already blogged about in my previous post, my 15 year old son and I were in London this past weekend and what a lovely time we had!

We went inside Tower Bridge and walked on the glass floor there, looking down!

My son was fearless about that and while I did do it briefly, I found it scary. But I did it – yay me! We also saw the engine room…

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… and when we finished our tour, we were greeted by a cannon salute across the river!

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OK, so the salute wasn’t for us but for the Queen’s 91st birthday. Still, we felt honoured. 🙂

We passed through Westminster…

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… and went on to Portobello Road in Notting Hill…

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… which was also a bit of fangirling for me as it reminded me of the lovely movie Notting Hill. The Notthing Hill thing was a spontaneous idea; if I had thought of it sooner, I would have researched it better and would have fangirled my way to Hugh Grant’s front door from that movie.

That evening my son and I went to see The Lion King musical, which we both very much enjoyed (we had a good view from the front row of the Grand Circle)…

While we were walking to the theatre, we passed by Covent Garden and walked by a street artist/comedian getting ready to do his thing. The street artist looked straight at my son and in his microphone announced “Ah, there we have Justin Bieber”! I had to laugh and the whole crowd turned to look at my son as we scurried along and my son turned beet-red! He has been compared to a younger Justin Bieber before and he hates it… I know I’m probably an awful mother but I have ribbed him about this incident regularly and in hindsight he now also has started seeing some of the humour in it.  He still insists he looks nothing like Bieber, though. 🙂

We shopped a bit in Oxford Street and also met up with fellow Richard Armitage fan Hariclea from the Opera is Magic blog on Saturday afternoon! We met at “Fortnum and Mason” and had ice cream ‘coupes’ at the ice cream parlour on the first floor! Beautiful, delicious, filled our stomachs right up! So much so, that my son felt a little sick there for a moment! Luckily he recovered quickly. It’s always a delight to see Hari and it was so much fun that I forgot to take pictures of our beautiful ice cream creations! The only picture I took was of two teacups priced at £145,- while waiting for Hari…

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Hari and I may have mentioned Richard Armitage a few times in passing but didn’t get too carried away in the presence of my son. That evening, as Hari went off to the theatre, my son and I went to see the Scarlett Johannson scifi movie Ghost in the Shell in a Leicester Square theatre with a truly huge screen. The movie was not the greatest scifi movie I’d ever seen, but it was quite fun and had nice visual effects.

We spent our Sunday on Hampstead Heath. We walked there for a bit, my son even climbed a tree…

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… we got up to Kenwood House (also a Notting Hill film location, by the way!)…

… and treated ourselves to some delicious scones (this had been something my son had particularly wished for).

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Later that afternoon we made our way back to the airport and flew home again. But I didn’t leave London without some specific fangirl items!

I’ve bought a DVD of a Gregory Peck movie I came across that I have always wanted to see but have never been able to…

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I’m not that much into Westerns but, come on, it’s Gregory Peck, my first real teenage fangirl crush!

At Kenwood House I bought the book Belle that accompanies the excellent movie of the same name, about a black young lady who lived as a lady and not as a servant in Kenwood House in the 18th century. She was also featured in a painting that was painted at the time but alas that painting is not at Kenwood anymore and is now somewhere in Scotland. I had seen the film, I now saw the book and grabbed it for myself…

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And, I did some more Jane Eyre fangirling when, in a bookstore, I happend upon a book with this title…

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I immediately recognized it as the first sentence from the last chapter of Jane Eyre and just had to have it, especially considering we will be visiting writer Charlotte Brontë’s house this coming summer.

Last but not least, there was Audrey Hepburn fangirling as well! I came across this POP doll of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s  and just couldn’t let it go…

So, yes, London is a great place to fangirl; it makes me feel greedy when I see all these goodies together even though they all didn’t cost that much. London is also a great place to spend time with my son! He picked out pretty much all our activities (Portobello Road and meeing Hari were my picks, the rest were his) and I loved that one-on-one time with him. I think that, except for my snoring at night, he enjoyed his time with me as well. We’ll definitely be back!