Learning Curves

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Learning Curves: speaking at my first conference This post could go one of two ways, narcissistic or focused on the bigger picture. I spoke at Edinburgh Mad Con yesterday – the conference of Madness, Mental Illness and Mind Doctors in 20 th and 21 st Century Popular Culture. I spoke about the moral panic caused by the issue of transgender women usi...
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To have or not have cosmetic surgery

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To have or not have cosmetic surgery It started as I was browsing images of Sarah McBride, the trans activist as girl-next-door, so pretty and passable. Then came Janet Mock, her model-good-looks, and I thought, 'fucking hell' and also, 'oh for fuck's sake.' And these are supposed to be my transgender role models? It's the weird dynamics ...
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Avengers: Infinity War

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Avengers: Infinity War It's set in Edinburgh! goes the cry, and I only wish it had been, or at least, much more than the five minutes that we get to see Edinburgh. Like the ten-second use of Northern Ireland in Hell Boy II , I was left wondering, what was the point? Locations-wise, the big winner in Avengers: Infinity War was outer space, with its ...
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A Quiet Place

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A Quiet Place A location of silence, where the slightest sound prompts monsters to leap out at you – and that's just the PhD room where I'm studying (that one's for all you PhDers out there). But seriously, the premise of this suspenseful, affectionate, horror film is one many readers will already be familiar with by now. Directed by and starring t...
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On Sarah McBride and Tomorrow Will Be Different

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On Sarah McBride and Tomorrow Will Be Different Should trans people be visibly trans, or should they pass, and disappear into the gender binary? What about the role models, representing us in the media? Does it matter that they look so perfectly cis-gendered? These are some of my reflections as I read this week Tomorrow Will Be Different (2018), th...
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Howl's Moving Castle

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Howl's Moving Castle Imagine a fairy tale Europe where the world wars never happened, a steampunk Europe of pre-war Dresden, Krakow, Paris, Budapest, et al, merged into one of narrow cobbled streets and wooden-beamed buildings and courtyards of different colours; imagine Hanseatic harbours of tall gables and market stalls with azure seas. Imagine f...
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My love for GLOW

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GLOW (Netflix TV show) I've seldom watched a Netflix show all the way through, season by season. Orange is the New Black , I watched into the third series before the grimness of the prison setting began to wear me down. Brit Marling's intelligent sci-fi, The OA , I did watch, and was sad it covered only one season. Sense8 I could happily watch...
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Ready Player One

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Ready Player One As a strapline summary of this Spielberg-directed film, it's difficult to top the 'coruscating explosion of pop-culture eye candy' as used by Variety magazine. Ready Player One , about people's virtual escape from slum-like conditions into a fantastic online world, is a visual feast and sums up so much of Spielberg's film-making: g...
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The Highs and Lows of an Intersectional Easter

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The Highs and Lows of an Intersectional Easter For Christians there's a sense of re-birth in the air, but Easter brings its own reflections for this non-Christian trans woman. I'll be away this coming Easter holiday, to be with people still trying to come to terms with my identity. I read somewhere that to come out as trans is to take the leap of f...
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Princess Mononoke

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Princess Mononoke They're doing a Hayao Miyazaki season at the Cameo , which means lots of gentle, Japanese animé of otherworlds and ethereal environments. Yesterday I went to watch Princess Mononoke  (1997), which to my mind is the darkest and most brutal of the Miyazaki offerings. Immediate questions occur in reflection, as they did before I...
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Unsane

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Unsane A look of distress crossed a friend's face when I talked about the concept of this movie. I understand why even better now. Unsane 's premise hints at a film that could go badly wrong, if exploited: of a girl locked up in a psychiatric hospital, who believes her former stalker has followed her there, in fact has found work there, to be with ...
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Saturday Night Party at Valentina's

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Saturday Night Party at Valentina's How is it possible to get lost on the way to Valentina's, of which I've been to twice before? Pulling behind me a suitcase filled with gifts and alcohol, I took a long route up my favourite street, then realized it wouldn't take me to the party. A swirling blizzard soon enveloped me, and I found myself at a motor...
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Mary Magdalene

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Mary Magdalene With mainstream films about Jesus, there's usually a fault line to contend with, between faith and secular interpretations: do you treat Jesus as a secular, historical figure, or the Son of God? Do you show the miracles as real? Or go for ambiguity, showing just enough for an open interpretation to satisfy different audiences? These ...
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What's On?

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What's On? They're still showing the Oscar-nominated best films at the Cameo and the Filmhouse . I liked all of them, but not enough to watch any of them again. Meanwhile, Lara Croft 's latest iteration is on at the multiplexes. It's received poor reviews, but it's got Alicia Vikander, and a mysterious jungle. I love Alicia Vikander in spite of The...
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Red Sparrow

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Red Sparrow This was not the film I was expecting, but the one I deserved. I had entered the screening room guessing at a female equivalent of James Bond, with its lead Jennifer Lawrence mixing fantasy and stupid violence. Instead, what I got for my assumptions was the channelling of John le Carre's brutalist Cold War vibe, of torture, double-cross...
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Please, I don't want to dance

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After the cinema yesterday evening, I entered a gay bar with some friends. I never go to gay bars – or any bars, except in cinemas. I get anxious in crowded rooms of strangers, where alcohol is flowing and the music is slightly deafening. Like Alicia Vikander's cyborg in Ex Machina , I feel vulnerable in my artificiality. In the gay bar we were oka...
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What's On?

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What's On? There's only one Oscar favourite I haven't watched so far, the based-on-true events I, Tonya . I remember the original attack on the skater Nancy Kerrigan, and how her rival Tonya Harding was later implicated in the attack (specifically, Harding was found guilty of conspiring to hinder the prosecution). I don't know what Nancy Kerrigan i...
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Identity Politics

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Identity Politics Sunday morning, I dropped £1 into the empty cardboard cup of a homeless person while the snow fell around us. It's the first time I've done such a thing in a while. It didn't make me feel good, it felt like a drop in the ocean. Earlier this week, the staff of my university went on strike. At one point, a picketing staff membe...
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A Fantastic Woman

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It's the most talked about trans movie since the problematic The Danish Girl  (2016), but A Fantastic Woman already has superior foundations through its casting and plot. Unlike Eddie Redmayne's depiction of Lili Elbe, the predicament of trans actress Daniela Vega's three-dimensional Marina does not involve a reason or fateful spark to ex...
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The Square

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The Square The trailer made this film fascinating; the two and a half hour cinema experience was a different, restless kettle of fish. The Square is an interesting if overly-long exploration of the managed edginess of a Copenhagen museum exhibition, and how its control – specifically the curator's control – pales to the weird fucked-upnes...
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