Tale of Tales – Movie Review

Genre – Adult Fantasy/Horror
Length – 2hr 14mins
Released in – 2015
My Overall Grading – 4 Stars

Tale of Tales (2015) is that blend of gothic fantasy weirdness which usually immediately catches my attention. As soon as I watched its suggestive atmospheric trailer, I craved to behold the whole movie, and I must say, I wasn’t disappointed.

Let me say this first and foremost – if you’re expecting yet another re-imagining of some popular children’s fairytale like Cinderella or Snow White, you’ll be disappointed. Actually, not even those narratives commonly known as fairy tales are meant for children at all, and only started to be projected that way for the multitudes, after severe editing and further changes by various 19th century writers, such as Charles Perrault and the Grimm Brothers .

Tale of Tales, an Italian-Franco-British production derived from the 17th century collection of tales known as Il Pentamerone and written by Neapolitan poet Giambattista Basile, can be described as an adult fantasy horror, or at best, a metaphorical cautionary tale.

Sinister, yet strangely sensual. Strange but graceful. Haunting yet moving. This movie is a strange experience and definitely not for children. Tale of Tales has three different and yet finally entwined story lines. On the one hand, we encounter the King and Queen of Selvaoscura, who, true to fairy tale canon, are having difficulty producing an heir. A wandering wizard tells them that to do this, they must find and kill a sea monster, and the Queen (Salma Hayek) must eat its heart. It’s portrayed as a horrifyingly huge bloody mass where she eagerly devours the organ on a silver platter.

The second tale takes us to Roccaforte, where a sexually voracious and dissolute king – played by Vincent Cassel – spies on a woman shrouded in a mantle, whom he believes to be a pretty young beauty, but who in reality is a hideous old crone. The crone’s only treasure is her loving relationship with her sister, who is also an old woman. The king hounds what he believes to be a new conquest, bullying and pressing the two sisters, who don’t know which way to turn without revealing their true identity and being punished for it.

The third story arch follows the King of Altomonte and his daughter Violet. The King (Toby Jones) is a shallow and comic creature, prioritizing the care of an unusual flea over that of his own daughter.

Throughout the three story-arches, the one constant emotion is that of obsession, which, we are shown, is the heart of all evil. Obsession vies with what is supposed to be the love of someone’s family. The Queen of Selvaoscura is obsessed with her son, which is why she seeks to destroy any ties he could have with other people. The King of Roccaforte is obsessed with claiming every young woman he sets eyes on, which results in betrayal, suffering and death. The King of Altomonte and his ridiculous obsession with the flea to the exclusion of all else brings about terrifying consequences.

Flea-petting, heart-eating, rape, flaying, betrayal, morbid jealousy… All this and more makes the movie a very strange and curious beast; a truly horrific Renaissance fairy tale. No wonder that, unlike other tales penned by Basile, these three weren’t even adapted to be read by children. Other tales of his, however, have inspired more well-known fairy tale writers such as Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. In this case, the three tales explored and adapted for the screen – The Enchanted Doe, The Flea and The Flayed Old Lady – serve as a dark metaphor to show that real love of one’s family members doesn’t mean warping them into suiting our own wishes and desires, but accepting them for who they are, even if this means letting them go.

The movie also sports beautiful visuals, as filming locations include stunning palaces, haunting forests and beautiful gardens in NaplesTuscanyAbruzzo and Lazio, amongst others.

I truly recommend this movie to all those who are lovers of the unusual and the artistic – those who appreciate dark humor and black comedy, and who enjoy finding revelations of the truth couched in veiled metaphors and tragic-comic allegory, rather than stark black and white fables.

A version of this article written by me was originally published on Eve magazine.

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Perfection: Why Narcissists don’t realize they have a problem

Everyone doubts himself at some point or other. No one thinks he’s perfect or that he’s right all the time. It is a fact of life – we are uncertain, we are confused, we are not sure. Maybe we cannot see the situation clearly, maybe we are shy in certain contexts, or maybe we just haven’t found our real priorities yet.

It is however, astounding to see how many people transform these doubts and confusion into envy towards others. How many shift the onus from trying to improve themselves or their situation, into trying to make trouble for, or compete with, others instead. It is one thing to have low self-esteem and own it, quiet another to project your self-hatred and your disillusionment with yourself, onto someone else.

Hating someone else is far easier than hating one’s self. And some find it much easier to shift facts in their favor, in order to be able to look at the mirror without gagging.

Of course, it doesn’t help that most self-deluding narcissists, scientifically also tend to be very good manipulators and have a talent for convincing and influencing weaker individuals. After so much effort and practice convincing themselves that reality is conveniently different from actual facts, how could they not be?

The pimple-faced looser with fake hair color and caked make-up enviously copying other people, the middle aged patronizing know-it-all trying to compensate for his low self-esteem, the entitled unemployed mom spamming social media with photos of yoga-class, the nasty bitch without friends dressing herself up only to take a couple of selfies, then taking off her frills again, the forever alone guy who finally has a girlfriend, yet spends more time bragging about it, rather than getting to know her.

Any of these sound familiar? There are so many of them. All trying to hide their weaknesses, trying to appear different from who they really are in a hypocritical show of strength. The only thing which is crystal clear however, is that they are weak. Scared. Alone. Since, instead of being able to face themselves – their fears, their weaknesses, and the need to communicate, they end up hiding themselves under layers of deceit, rather than admitting that they are not perfect.

And how can anyone improve and grow as a person, if they think there is no room for improvement? If they think they are already perfect?

As the wise man said: ‘I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.’ (Socrates)

On a personal note – I’ve (unfortunately) known many such people in my life. It is futile to try to change them, or kid yourself that they are worthwhile being with. Keep away from emotional vampires, or those who need to feel that they are competing with you in order to convince themselves they are worth something, rather than be your actual friends. Don’t let others project their own faults on you.

The only thing to do with narcissists, is to keep them well out of your orbit.

When does Dating become a Relationship?

There’s a thin line between what we call dating someone and actually being in a relationship with them.

The word ‘dating’ denotes that the link between two people is still tenuous, that their acquaintance is just starting, and that there are still no strings attached, no expectations, and no deep emotions at play. On the other hand, a relationship between a couple is the complete opposite, since it usually means that said couple are emotionally attached to each other, to the exclusion of all other possible partners.

Therefore, while people who are still dating are still sounding each other out and keeping their options open, those in a relationship have already settled to try to make things work with that special person they’ve fallen in love with, and with whom they want to share their experiences and everyday joys and sorrows.

The tricky part, however, is to actually understand where the dating phase ends, and where the relationship begins. Some never get to the relationship nor even want to, preferring instead to casually date different people in a relaxed manner without any ties. However, for most of us, dating does eventually evolve into a relationship.

relationship

When I was younger, one of my biggest problems was in actually understanding when someone stopped being my date and actually became my boyfriend. I’m sure many of my boyfriends at the time had the exact same difficulty. So, the question arises: how do we finally become certain that the other person considers us their partner, and not just their date?

When the other person refers to you as their girlfriend/boyfriend – This is the easy way out. Simply wait for the other person you’re going out with to introduce you as such, and that’s it. Thing is, what if the other person in the couple is also waiting for you to clinch the deal? Would that mean that both of you would wait forever? Better not risk it!

girlfriend

When someone else refers to you as the other person’s partner, and you see their reaction – This one is pretty clear. There you are at a bottle party, and someone asks your date his girlfriend’s name. What does he do? Does he just reply calmly and in so doing affirm your role as his girlfriend? Does he hesitate? Or does he staunchly reply that you’re not his girlfriend but just a friend, and that your name is Tiffany? Hmm…

keep-calm

Meeting the parents – Some people believe that when a partner invites you to meet their family, that means that they’re offering you a way into it. Personally, I disagree with this theory. How do you know whether he’s so laid back as to take all his friends, colleagues and acquaintances to the family BBQ? Maybe all the family members do this. Again, if at said BBQ opportunities number 1 and number 2 mentioned above crop up, you will then be clearer as to where you stand.

mistake

Asking you whether you’re dating other people – Here, the other person will be making it clear that they actually care if you do, that is unless they’re asking you to assuage their conscience because they’re actually dating someone else as well. In this case, better come clear and demand an exclusive relationship if you want one, or an open relationship if you prefer that.

niky

Telling you they’re in love with you – And there you have it! If you say it back, you’re in a relationship! If not, things might get a little bit confused or complicated, but this still wouldn’t mean that they wouldn’t be progressing towards one, if you want it, that is.

love

N.B This article was written by moi and was originally published in the online magazine EVE to be found here.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Movie Review

Genre – Teen/Comedy
Length – 1hr 43mins
Released in – 1986
My Overall Grading – 3 Stars

Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!’

Each and every movie has one main aim – to make the viewer feel something. There is always one single encompassing idea, perspective, or state of mind towards which the plot-line itself takes you, even though most of the time, this is sold to the audience subconsciously, in that it underlies the film’s story-line or characterization, rather than being wholly apparent as one concrete whole.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) was written expressly for Matthew Broderick and is a pretty easy movie to summerize. Basically: a charming teen decides to flunk school because he has a test, and convinces his best friend and his girlfriend to spend the day with him roaming the town instead.

Pretty simple right? You’d think that’s all there was to it. Well… yes and no.

I was always fascinated by the kind of character Ferris, that is Matthew Broderick, portrays. This is the kind of character who has, it seems, been blessed by the ancient gods with such good fortune, that anything and everything he does turns out well. No matter how many rules he breaks, how many people he manipulates, how many blatant self-serving lies he tells (always with a charming smile and a rakish attitude of course), he never gets to face the music. And believe me, these people exist. It’s just unfortunate that I am not one of them.

Apart from the amusing foibles our characters go through, and the hilarious contribution to the cast given by the uniquely endowed Jeffrey Jones (his face is the epitome of all asshole-ish headmasters), one cannot but note the rest of the amazing cast. Most of the main actors seem in fact to actually represent my favorite iconic 80s movies. Apart from Broderick himself (Wargames, Ladyhawke), there’s Mia Sara (Legend) who plays his love interest, Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing) as his older sister, Alan Ruck (Bad Boys) is his bestie, Ben Stein (Ghostbusters II, The Wonder Years, MacGyver) as his teacher, the aforementioned Jeffrey Jones (Beetlejuice) is his headmaster, Lyman Ward (A Nightmare on Elm Street) plays the role of his father, and even Charlie Sheen makes a short appearance. Could any other cast have been more perfect for an 80s movie?

Apart from that, it tickles me no end to know that the interior hallway scenes for Ferris’ school were filmed at Maine North High School – the same place where John Hughes’ iconic movie The Breakfast Club was also filmed. This school also features in 16 Candles and Pretty In Pink!

So what happens when Ferris fakes sick to escape taking his test? What doesn’t happen! Amidst fancy brunches, romantic smooches, coming-of-age battles, wild joyrides, street parades, dips in the pool, and amusing tirades, we find ourselves asking – how many hours are there in a day? How does the errant trio manage to do all that stuff in such a short time? And this brings us to the crux idea of the movie.

Life is short. Enjoy it!!!

Conclusion: This movie was fun… BUT it wasn’t memorable, in that there were no deep characters, underlying issues or actual emotional scenes or feelings between characters. It’s a very light-hearted film, perfect if you just want to relax with a no-brainer and a couple of easy laughs.

In Love with the 80s

If you had the choice of re-living your childhood and teenage years, and could choose the particular decade during which to enjoy them… would you? And which decade would you choose?

Baccombed wild hair, puffy tulle skirts, pink scrunchies, men wearing heavy make-up, others stroking screeching guitars as though they were lovers, skintight leather trousers, shoulder-padded blazers, bubblegum and legwarmers. No it’s not a drag-queen’s parade – it’s the 80s!

Ever since I can remember, I have always been in love with the 80s. The movies, the video games, the music, the pop-culture, the anime, the clothes (especially the Madonna phase)…. Taking into account that I was born in the mid-80s, and therefore don’t remember a thing about actually living during this decade, since I was a toddler at the time, this kind of retro-nostalgia might not be understandable to others. After all, why yearn for slower services, archaic I.T, and vanilla sitcoms right? Still, when I look at the ingenious convoluted plots of 80s movies, as opposed to the boring recurring tropes featuring semi-nude women, sex scenes, car chases and gratuitous violence… without a shred of innovation or creativity, presented to viewers today, it is no wonder I end up re-watching old 80s, and sometimes 90s films over and over again.

And what to say about the music? David Bowie, Queen, Siouxie and the Banshees, Black Sabbath, Def Leppard, Madonna, Guns n Roses, Van Halen, AC/DC, Twisted Sister, Whitesnake, Kiss, Scorpions, Eurythmics… need I go on? Who do we have now? Justin Bieber? Miley Cyrus? Kanye West? Oh please…

I don’t doubt that there are great and talented artists out there. But does today’s entertainment culture give them prominence as it should? I’ll leave you to answer that yourselves shall I?

Two days ago, I finished reading Cline’s amazing book ‘Ready Player One’. And it was a blast. The movie? I liked it and watched it twice… before I had actually read the novel. Now? Let’s say I think I’ll be considering the movie and the novel as two separate entities, rather than one. Yes, the movie does derive from the book, BUT apart from holding to the mostly-right cliche that ‘The book is always better than the movie’, I have to say that the characters, plot-lines, adventures and contents of the movie vs book itself are vastly different. And yes, the book is much better. Especially if you are a sucker for the 80s like me. And a movie-geek. And love video games. And are an otaku. And a geek. And a nerd.

I think you’ve realized by now that even though I finished reading the book more than 48 hours ago, I am still MASSIVELY HYPED UP about it.

Time to listen to some good 80s music and re-watch ‘Back to the Future’ or ‘Bladerunner’!

Where are the best areas for expats to live in Malta?

I am always glad to hear other people’s opinions about something which is close to me, or part of my everyday life. When we see and experience something every day for years, it becomes common place. For us, that is. It is always kind of refreshing to realize that what is normal for you, may be strange, new and/or seem different to other people.

When it comes to Malta, the island in the Mediterranean where I was born and bred, this is especially true. I have never lived anywhere else, the traditions, mentality, heritage, and geography of this tiny island are in my blood, and it always tickles me to no end when I see people from other countries or backgrounds land on these shores, look around them in wonder (or depreciation, depends who you ask), and start clicking madly on their cameras, or writing about it on their blogs. I am always curious to see and ponder these reactions, and maybe this is why some time ago I opted to become a member of a number of Facebook groups consisting mostly of expats living here, or people who are thinking about relocating to Malta.

The candid ideas, thoughts, issues and questions of someone who has never lived here before, or who has lived here for some time while having a different natal country, are very interesting and at times, quite educational. One also realizes that most queries, concerns and problems are shared and natural to ask before relocating to another country.

One of the most common issues tackled on these forums regards the best and/or worse areas to live in.

Although the Maltese archipelago is relatively a small one, it still offers a huge number of choices when it comes to residential opportunities. First and foremost, when choosing a place to live on the island, one must consider one’s wants and needs. If, for example, one wants to live near his or her place of work, that is quite understandable, and here the size of our island comes into play, since as Malta is not so large, almost everywhere can be said to be located within a stone’s throw of every other location. Traffic, of course, must always be taken into account, especially if one works in a central location such as Sliema or Valletta.

Working requirements aside, one must also consider whether s/he considers being close to the beach a priority, or whether s/he would prefer to be located in the city center. For people who wish to be near the sea, I would personally recommend finding a home either in the South, that is within such towns as Marsascala or Marsaxlokk, or else in the far North, that is in such towns as Mellieha, Qawra, or Bugibba. While accommodation can be cheaper in the South, one must also keep in mind that living in for example Mellieha has its advantages if one is interested in frequent trips to Malta’s sister island, Gozo, since this town is closer to the ferry than, say, Marsaxlokk. Again, the atmosphere of the North and South is quite different, in that the North offers opportunities to enjoy not only a multitude of beaches, but also a number of unspoilt countryside walks, however on the downside, since tourists tend to gravitate towards places such as Bugibba or Qawra, which offer a number of cheap hotels and services, relocating to the South would bring one closer to the original Maltese traditional way of life.

Those who prefer life in the city, such as students, business men or plain city gals and guys, tend to look for accommodation in places such as Sliema, Saint Julians or Valletta. Take it from me, this is a no-no. First of all, because flats and homes in general in these two cities are quite expensive, despite being mostly on the small-ish size, and secondly because, due to the onset of so many tourists and expats, daily amenities and convenience stores tend to be much more expensive than those one finds in other parts of the island. My suggestion would be to find more reasonably priced accommodation in towns such as Msida, Mosta, or Naxxar, which though not at the exact hub of Maltese high-life, are definitely more affordable. They are also quite close to the center.

One must also not forget the many ex-pats who relocate to our islands in order to enjoy a quite retirement. The tiny island of Gozo is perfect for those searching for peace and quiet. Its unspoilt panoramas, clear sandy beaches, and picturesque countryside offer a view into an older and more traditional way of life. Unfortunately however, Gozo is not such an attractive place for those looking for work, entertainment or new opportunities, as even the locals themselves struggle to find these, and often have to commute to Malta for work on a daily basis.

Should one wish to combine the bustle and hustle of a lively city, togather with historical heritage and Maltese tradition, I would suggest going to live in the Harbour area, most particularly in one of the ‘three cities’, that is, Bormla (Cospicua), Birgu (Vittoriosa) or Isla (Senglea). Apart from offering unparalleled seaviews, the Harbour area is also the showcase for some magnificent architecture. It is also a center of industry, and is quite close to the capital city of Valletta. 

Note: Part of this article, written by yours truly, was also published on the Expat online magazine LivingInMalta. The direct link can be found here.