The Weekend Binge: Nailed It!

I have fat fingers. I mean metaphorically, more so than literally (but, you know, if you were think literally, you are right about that too.) What I mean is that I am graceless. A bull in a china shop whose fingertips do more damage than good (except where it matters, if you know what I mean.) The frustrating thing is that I am terrible at delicate things like artistry and crafts. It’s not that my imagination isn’t there or my passion, it just whatever I can conceive crumbles in my clumsiness, flaking away into pastry dust or inept looking meals.

I avoid shows like Great British Bake Off or Masterchef because I am just so envious about the designs that are exquisitely put on display. So when a show dedicated to shambolic baking landed on Netflix, I leapt at the opportunity to consume it and, man, I was not disappointed.

With only six half an hour episodes, Nailed It! is a brand new cooking show in which ridiculously amateur bakers put their less than average skills to the test, trying to replicate complex recipes. Hosted by Nicole Byer, there are two rounds per episode with a smaller challenge and then a much larger one. There are guest judges and chocolatier Jacques Torres as a main staple as the winner secures themselves $10,000.

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Though this may seem like a competitive show in which we’re all sat there to poke fun at the contestants,  there’s actually a great amount of heart. The bakers here aren’t delusional like those poor wailers who believe there are the next Mariah Carey (awkward,) on singing contests –  they are genuine people who know that they cannot bake but that doesn’t stop them either. Similar to films such as The Room or Florence Foster Jenkins, the television show revolves around the scrappy nature of the human spirit that finds a passion and, despite being ridiculously good at it, continues because it gives them joy and brings them closer to their loved ones. This energy leads to some comical moments and as the challenges escalate, as does your interest.

The set up changes every so often, particularly in the second round, where the person running last gets an extra advantage. This could be Nicole Nags where Byer gets up and hassles the other contestants, or they have to freeze for three minutes so another can get ahead of the game. It’s slight innovative ideas that pulls Nailed It! into a more interesting territory than “woops, you failed.” 

Although, that being said, the truly terrible cakes will make you titter,  and, at times, terrify you (see: Episode’s 6 Donald Trump cake challenge.) There are brilliantly bad and will make you feel at home if you’ve ever felt  bad about your skills.

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Nicola Byer is an admirable and gifted host because she has an innate ability to deliver fun. Her comedy is infectious from conversations with the judges to tasting the cakes (and, of course, her highly irritating nags.) Byer is brilliant – feeling fresh and unforced, leading to this natural hilarity with contestants and audiences alike.

Much like a sweet cake, if you do binge, you’ll find the formula become sickly around the fourth episode mark and may wanna take a break with something a bit savoury (or stop eating altogether, go out for walk or something.) This is only six episodes and you gotta a whole weekend to gobble it down. The place where self-deprecating humour, colourful ridiculousness, and funny mishaps meet, that’s where Nailed It! flourishes.

And Nicole Byer is the sweet icing on the cake.

Nailed It! is available on Netflix! 

The Best Of…Rooney Mara

Stoic, brooding, beautiful, and gifted.

These have been many words used to describe the Academy Award nominated actress Rooney Mara. The uniquely named star has gradually become one of the best performers of our generation. Her craft has provided us with some impossibly great films that she has been the heart and soul of. Hailing from New York, Mara had soared through independent cinema and is now destined to score that coveted Oscar.

To celebrate her biblical leading role as the titular Mary Magdalene, we’re going to celebrate her best cinematic  roles.

Honorable Mention: The Social Network (2010) and Her (2013) which showed that even in slight supporting roles, she made an impression. She certainly had the best monologue about nerdy, geek assholes in the former.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

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Earning the actress her first ever Academy Award nomination, Rooney Mara took mysterious goth girl to a whole new level. Not only did she have to capture the essence of a popular book character, but she was battling against an acclaimed performance by Noomi Rapace in the Swedish version. Directed by David Fincher, this silky and bleak (yet bloody brilliant) adaptation of Stig Larsson’s book saw Mara as Lisbeth Salander, a hacker with a psychopathic nature that helps uncover a murder alongside Daniel Craig’s disgraced journalist. Though there are awful and violent scenes, Mara matches them with a ferocious character nuanced with mystery and skill.

Side Effects (2013)

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Before Steven Soderbergh “retired” he claimed that this were to be his last film. The criminally underrated thriller/drama  brought interesting elements together with the cast that includes Catherine Zeta Jones, Jude Law, Channing Tatum, and, of course, Rooney Mara. The movie took apart the ethical supply of drugs to those mentally ill but implemented a twist that (somewhat exploitative) was a delicious and gripping one. The film saw Mara as a young woman struggling with depression after her husband is arrested, only to take a drug that inadvertently leads to her killing him in her sleep. The film turns into a parable on who is at fault here (ranging from the doctors to the commercialised meds) and, yet, the end will blow you away. Mara is apt for this performance and weaves through the different sides of the character with ease.

Carol  (2015)

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Todd Hayne’s lesbian led drama saw both it’s leads, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, nominated for prestigious awards. Though there wouldn’t be any winners, this is certainly the film that most people are talking about, even to this day. The titular role is played by Blanchett who is a lonesome housewife who falls in love with shopping mall clerk Therese (Mara.) A taboo in 1950s America, they begin an elicit affair. Hayne’s drawn back and poetic piece is bound with passion exacted impeccably by the two leads. Enchanting and filled with depth as two opposite women fall desperately in love, Carol is a must for anyone and everyone.

It’s also created the best meme:

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Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

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Voice acting is trickier than one might think but there’s a very good reason for why I picked this Mara outing over movies such as Ain’t Them Bodies Saints or Lion. That’s because the vocal tones of villains simple known as The Sisters still haunts my brains and mocks me. The stop-motion animation sees a young boy on an adventure to save his family when they are pursued by his grand-father and aunts. An entertaining adventure that is made more thrilling by Mara’s unforgettable work as the main antagonists.

A Ghost Story (2017)

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An under-seen yet vivid masterpiece from director David Lowry, A Ghost Story is a palpable depiction of time, life, and spirit. It revolves around the untimely death of a man who returns as a sheet covered ghost and stalks his wife as she grieves for him. This is a stirring  film with such ingenius performances and emotional visuals. Rooney Mara has a particular scene that is certainly a test of skill and stomach. Her adroitness in acting is a mesmeric tour-de-force, steering you through a weighted arc that her character nearly silently goes through.

Mary Magdalene is out now! 
Read our review. 

Looking Back…Force Majeure (2014)


It’s a gut instinct.

You don’t know exactly how you are going to react when you are placed into an event of extreme stress because it’s down to your body and subconscious to get the hell out of there. Sure, we can pretend that we’d play a mighty hero and rescue as many people as possible before succumbing to a self-sacrificial death that make our films so goddamn good. We’d like to imagine that we’d throw babies and dogs to safety before thinking about ourselves but the truth is humanity sucks at being heroes. Our main drive is self-preservation and that’s OK! We all have to survive somehow.

But what about your own children? Your own family? Your own loved ones? Would you save your own life over theirs?

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That’s the major conflict in Force Majeure.  The film revolve around Tomas, Edda, and their two adorable children – Henry and Vera. The family are enjoying skiing trip in the Swiss Alps and everything is going fine until a controlled avalanche takes place near their resort as they are breakfasting on the balcony. Though it is relatively safe, it looks dangerous and when the white fog starts to encompass them. Panicking, Tomas runs away from his family, leaving them to save themselves. When all returns to normal, Edda is disgruntled at Tomas’ actions, creating a tense and strained atmosphere…

Force Majeure is an uncomfortable and awkward watch as Tomas and Edda navigate the fall out of the former’s actions. The unfolding story is a brisk, emotional, and taut experience that makes you squirm with the conflicting thoughts of your own reactions. Director and writer Ruben Ostlund masterfully creates a piece that is deep in meaning and sentiments as well as the pain on confronting your inner instinct. A tentative piece that connects with your obstinate places really quickly, the sublime cinematography adds a chilling place for a cold, emotional, and analytical piece, stirring all sorts of skirmishes within you.

Helming the piece, the performances are really engrossing. Johannes Bah Kuhnke is spectacular as Tomas, particularly as his post-adrenaline thoughts that cloud his judgement, believing that he didn’t actually run away from his family. As he is forced to be honest with his actions, he slowly breaks down and the remorse ripples around his family unit and the friends he meets. Equally, Lisa Loven Kongsli is stellar as Ebba, who becomes immediately disjointed around her husband after watching him abscond without her or their children. Her quiet rage is a brilliant unfurling anger that never relents until Tomas proves himself as an adequate father and carer. As they fight and argue, in this unbelievably palpable tense moments, Force Majeure becomes an exquisite portrayal of humanity at its emotional edge.

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Force Majeure was Sweden’s entry for Foreign Language film at last year’s Academy Awards but failed to make the nominations. There is absolutely no reason for the Academy to have ignored this film unless the other films were exceptional. This is an involving and engrossing film that hits you right in the squiffy parts of your stomach.

But maybe Force Majeure made them all uncomfortable. Like really uncomfortable. It’ll make your toes curl and a wave of gaucheness smog over you like a controlled avalanche.

The Square is out now!