Book No 43 (2015) : The Blue

the blueFate must have been having a laugh when she gifted me with an innate love of the sea, coupled with debilitating motion sickness. As a child, twenty minutes on the 441 bus with my Nan, up Egham Hill to the Great Park was enough to leave me retching. So as I can’t be a real sailor, I have to take my sea-faring pleasures vicariously. Hence my choice of books such as Lucy Clarke’s ‘The Blue‘.

This intriguing thriller tells the story of Lana and Kitty, two best pals who have their own reasons for wanting to leave the UK. With a random spin of the globe, they head for the Philippines. The girls join the glorious yacht ‘The Blue’ and its eclectic crew. Although they have never sailed before, Lana and Kitty soon adapt to the idyllic life on board; swimming, snorkelling and camaraderie. They try their best to abide by the on-board rules of Aaron, the skipper, and form friendships with the rest of the crew – Joseph, Shell, Heinrich and Denny. But their trip starts to turn sour after a night of heavy drinking, when one of the crew members goes missing at sea.

Lucy Clarke is clearly a traveller. She captures the lure of the sea and adventure beautifully, transporting the reader to the clear blue waters of the ocean, but also describing the menace of stormy weather. I could feel the warm sun and smell the tang of salt in the air. As the mystery within the novel begins to unfold, I was drawn deeper into the story, keen to see the secrets of ‘The Blue‘ revealed. If, like me, you are an armchair mariner, this book will probably float your boat. It did mine.

Thank you to NetGalley for my copy of this book.

Film No 26 (2015) : Vanilla Sky

vanilla skyWhen I first started my blog, aiming to watch 50 films in a year, I asked a real film buff what his favourites were, and what he would recommend. ‘Vanilla Sky‘ was in his Top 10 movies, he said. It’s a weird one, that’s for sure.

David Aames (Tom Cruise) is a handsome chap and is worth a few bob as well, having inherited a successful publishing company from his father. He lives the life – fast car, beautiful women. Somewhat unkindly, his best friend interprets David’s relationship with Julia Gianni (Cameron Diaz) as that of ‘fuck buddies’. After his own birthday party, when David is introduced briefly to the beguiling Sofia (Penelope Cruz), Julia confesses that she is actually in love with David. When it becomes clear to her that he doesn’t feel the same way, she rather spectacularly drives her car off a bridge and into a wall. Julie dies, but David survives, albeit with his face severely disfigured. Now he has lost his looks, will everything else disappear as well?

This part of the story is told in flashback, because David is recounting his life to a psychologist, Curtis McCabe (Kurt Russell). David has been arrested for murder and the Dr. is preparing a report on Aames’ mental state for the courts. There is clearly something wrong with David as he keeps having terrible dreams and nightmares, seems not to be able to distinguish reality from imagination. The reasons for his twisted perceptions are revealed – and it does take a bit to get your head round it! I found the ending ambiguous, probably deliberately written to be so, but that wondering always leaves me feeling a little dissatisfied. I prefer my ends tied up.

I think Tom Cruise’s reputation has been damaged in more recent years, following his marriage breakdowns and involvement with the Church of Scientology. Nevertheless, he made his name as an actor and whilst I don’t think ‘Vanilla Sky‘ is one of his best performances, he’s still good. Cruz, on the other hand had me utterly transfixed! With her lilting accent, gamine figure and expressive eyes, I thought she was wonderful (not that I am prone to girl crushes!). However, my critical skills have taken a bit of a bashing, as I discovered that her appearance in ‘Vanilla Sky‘ saw Penelope nominated for a Golden Raspberry ‘Worst Actress‘ award. I console myself with the knowledge that I am in good company in thinking she’s cool – Cruise dated her for 3 years after they appeared together in ‘Vanilla Sky‘. Surely Tom Cruise and I can’t both be wrong?

Film No 25 (2015) : Rush

RushMotor racing has always seemed like a slightly pointless spectator sport to me; standing about waiting for something which whooshes past as quickly as Harry Potter on his Nimbus 2000, then waiting for it to come around again. I am obviously missing something and can’t help thinking that the whole experience may be enhanced were I to be in the company of an up-and-coming racing driver, like James Hunt. He was apparently as passionate in the bedroom as he was on the track and Hunt’s unconventional behaviour is part of F1 folklore. One of his favourite racing-suit badges read: ‘Sex. The Breakfast of Champions’.

The film stars Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Brühl as his competitive rival, Niki Lauda and chronicles the rivalry between the two drivers during the 1970s. There is some archive footage at the end of the movie which shows just how well the actors captured the physical appearances of their subjects, as well as their characters. Whilst Lauda was technically- minded and focussed, Hunt seemed to have a much more opportunistic approach to achieving success. The film obviously has lots of very fast and exciting race scenes and ‘Rush‘ was nominated for awards for its editing, sound and stunts.

Aside from the racing though, the main focus of the story is the relationship between Hunt and Lauda. Although rivals, their circumstances brought them into contact with each other regularly and the pair were firm friends. Niki Lauda was severely burned when his Ferrari burst into flames following a crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix. Even though I am not a race fan, this piece of F1 history is well-documented and I did find myself anticipating the accident throughout most of the first part of the movie. Lauda’s recovery was excruciatingly painful, yet he was spurred on by his need to beat Hunt and was back on the track just 6 weeks later. He didn’t win that Italian Gran Prix, but the race was nevertheless a triumph.

Niki Lauda retired from racing in 1985. James Hunt was only 45 when he died of a heart attack. Asked about ‘Rush‘, Lauda reflected upon his friend; “The sad thing is that he isn’t here now. I wish he could have seen the movie because I know for sure he would have enjoyed it.” I think that is a very positive endorsement.