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.

Beyond the Lights

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.

Beyond_the_lights

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!

Wet shirts and bare chests

Oh wow, Armitage world erupts again, because of these…

armitage proctor @washbasin

A whole controversy has emerged over whether it is OK to ogle these, whether it doesn’t objectify Richard Armitage/John Proctor. Well, these are public pictures, everyone involved in the production must know the effect such images can have and it takes nothing away from the absolutely electrifying performance by Mr. Armitage. In fact, it adds to it! A state of undress like that may seem sexy (and believe me, I like to look) but it also shows a vulnerability and that’s what these images convey to me as well – a strong, sexy man at a very vulnerable stage in his life.

As soon as I saw these pics of a bare chested Armitage at the washbasin it made me think of this:

Darcy wet shirt 2

Darcy wet shirt 0In 1995 Mr. Darcy emerged in a wet shirt from a lake, with nipples showing and everything, and the world went gaga… He too, at that moment, was at a very vulnerable point in the story and the “less formally attired” look added to his desperation. What makes these pictures so sexy? I don’t believe it’s just the look that makes it sexy, it’s the context in which this scene is placed as well and the character of the person! Of course, things get taken out of context, and that has happened with the Darcy wet shirt. It has become a legendary, stand-alone image. But Colin’s name is attached to that, so that’s not bad PR… you can have a worse image than being considered sexy.

So, was Colin Firth/Mr. Darcy objectified for this scene? Er… yes, I think so! And even now, almost 20 years on, this may be the most famous scene from the whole 1995 Pride and Prejudice production. So much so that it has passed into legend and is referenced endlessly. For instance:

In a time travel romantic comedy adaptation of Pride and Prejudice called “Lost in Austen” (things work out quite differently than in the book – loved it! Oh, and check out the Mr. Darcy and Tinky Winky scene), the actor Elliot Cowan was specifically asked to step into the lake, to recreate the Darcy-wet-shirt look:

wet-shirt Lost in AustenLizzie Bennet appreciates Darcy in a wet shirt just as Amanda appreciates it in Lost in Austen:

Lizzie w Darcy in wet shirtAmanda w Darcy in wet shirt

There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to Darcy’s wet shirt: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mr-Darcys-Wet-Shirt-Appreciation-Society/150114028390072

In 2013 a statue was made of Mr. Darcy in a wet shirt and it was placed in a lake in London, it even toured England!

Colin Firth wet shirt statue

More recently I came across this:

benedict-cumberbatch-colin-firth-460x272Even Benedict Cumberbatch gets in on the wet shirt action! http://www.unrealitytv.co.uk/showbiz/colin-firth-vs-benedict-cumberbatch-wet-shirt-competition/

Colin Firth answers questions about it in interviews and has a good laugh with it. He has recently even said he should have been naked in the scene! My, what a fuss that would have caused! http://www.express.co.uk/news/showbiz/553741/Colin-Firth-wet-shirt-Pride-and-Prejudice

And in the extras of the second Bridget Jones film, Bridget Jones interviews Colin Firth, the actor (so not in character as Mr. Darcy), about the wet shirt – this interview cracks me up and Colin plays along so brilliantly!

I follow all this with great amusement and yes, I ogle as well. So, are we objectifying? I guess we are to a certain extent. But is that always wrong? I don’t think so. Believe me, there are times when I very much objectify my husband and in those moments I am really not thinking of his other wonderful characteristics and all the wonderful things he does… It’s OK to zoom in on certain attractive aspects of a person, doesn’t mean that is the only thing you care about.

So… if anyone ever decides to do a statue of Richard Armitage with his bare chest so that he too can pass into sexy-man legend, then I hope they choose this image, it’s my favorite one:

armitage proctor @washbasin 5