The Brainies

Welcome, ladies and gentlethem, to the first annual Brainies. The web’s most prestigious made-up award ceremony that ends in “ies” to honour the most revered works in film and music and anything else that I feel like talking about. Today, I will be awarding 2019’s best in film, acting, and writing. There will be no in-memorium, this year, because nobody died. Without further ado, to present the award for Best Actor, I present… me!

  • Best Actor
    Lorn Macdonald as Spanner in “Beats”
    Cristian Ortega as Johnno in “Beats”
    Justice Smith as Tim in “Pokémon Detective Pikachu”
    Evan Alex as Jason / Pluto in “Us”

I’m not really as captivated by male-centric films as I am with female lead films, but Beats for me was easily one of the best films I saw from 2019. I decided to watch it based on repeatedly sitting through the trailer in Hyde Park Picture House. I can’t say why exactly, but undoubtedly the portrayal of Spanner’s character was unlike anything I’d seen before and I needed to know more. Outstanding! 

  • Best Actress
    Beanie Feldstein as Molly in “Booksmart”
    Dawn Luebbe as Lisa “Greener Grass”
    Pollyanna McIntosh as The Woman in “Darlin'”
    Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide / Red in “Us”

Here’s where it got difficult. Picking only four actresses to highlight for their work in 2019. As amazing as they all were, Lupita just eases ahead of everyone else for her dual portrayal in Us. She also wowed in the very under appreciated Little Monsters.

There was a lot of expectations riding on Pokémon’s first live action feature film. So many things could have gone wrong. How do you make a 20 year old franchise feel brand new whilst still honouring the original and not alienating long time fans? Can it even be done? I’m here to say, Detective Pikachu came pretty damn close to being perfection. I had to call it the best of 2019, because of the expectation versus payoff.

    Best Original Screenplay
    Booksmart
    Beats
    Us

    Greener Grass

Indescribable. I could watch this film another 10 times and see a different side to it every time. I feel like every frame is chockfull of so much colour; so much detail. Even the costumes alone are exquisitely demented! If you don’t like Greener Grass, keep calm and carry on, because you may be the exact people this film is making fun of!

    Best Foreign Language Film
    And Then We Danced
    Matthias & Maxime
    Synonyms
    Monsoon

Whilst And Then We Danced rated higher for others, and Matthias & Maxime was directed by my favourite Xavier Dolan, Monsoon has stayed with me long after seeing it and is the one I want to watch again. I liked all of the characters, and thought they we’re really well written and helped give insight into a film where there may not have been much scripted dialogue (I even wondered if this counts as a Foreign Language film). I think you could tell Kit’s estranged neighbour is wanting to say all throughout their time together, “if your family had stayed, we might have fallen in love.” It’s not just me that was picking some vibes up, right?

  • Best Documentary
    Leaving Neverland
    Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator
    The Great Hack
    Fyre

What a year for documentaries! Another election, another year of lessons not learnt from The Great Hack (I couldn’t exactly delete my Facebook and Twitter, but I did scale way back on everything so that now I am a shallow husk of a former human being). Whilst I still haven’t been able to see the other (apparently more coherent) Fyre Festival documentary, it feels like that is so irrelevant and happened years ago. For me, 2019’s best documentary was the shocking, exposing, sickening recount of Bikram. Jackie Lacey, extradite him! It’s 2020, extradite him now! You should have extradited him long before now! Most days I pass by the proudly displayed Bikram Yoga sign in Leeds, and had always wondered how one opened AFTER the deposition. Now I know. I want to go to every other business that operates inside that mall and ask, are they happy to have their brand displayed next to that of a predatory rapist?

  • Best Short
    Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny
    Cuban Heel Shoes
    The Distance Between Us and the Sky
    A Night With Noorjehan

I saw more short films in 2019 than ever before, thanks to Leeds International Film Festival putting on two nights of screenings for both its Queer Short Film offerings. The best offering I felt was Cuban Heel Shoes from Spain by Julio Mas Alcaraz.

Horror is my thing. It’s the genre I love most. And in 2019, I saw a lot of horror. 5 films in one day, in fact. For me, the best was Darlin’, the directorial debut of Pollyanna McIntosh. Taking the story from Lucky McKee’s utterly bloodthirsty and outstanding The Woman, and creating a unique film that can still be watched either stand alone or in tandem with the other two films from the series. I came into this film only having seen The Woman once – over a year ago! I completely even forgot the two were connected until I got a proper look at Pollyanna McIntosh. The lead character of Darlin’ is expertly brought to life, and the kid actors that surrounded her were equally talented.

And so, it has come to this, the most coveted award of the night. Time may pass, but my love for Booksmart will never fade. It may even grow. I’ve been a fan of Sarah Haskins for over 10 years, and to finally see her name up on the big screen filled me with so much pride and joy and respect! I’m a little pressed about Olivia Wilde taking so much of the spotlight, it having been her directorial debut, but I loved the underwater scene, followed by the long tracking shot into the house. It was undoubtedly really well directed, and really well cast. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever were outstanding. In fact, everyone was outstanding. Billie Lourd, Noah Galvin, Jessica Williams. It reminded me so much of Daria, which I love, but this exists really well in the here and now.

A Christmas Like Any Other Day

You might want to re-familiarise yourself with a certain Novella I published 6 years ago known as The Caliente Affairs. Because, in 2020, seven new episodes are being unleashed upon the internet once again! Based on my original Sims 2 stories that were shared on the old official website back in 2006, Season 2 (or Volume 2, if you’re reading on Wattpad or Movella) has been arduously worked upon to reflect the changing times, and perhaps usher in a future where the story continues…

The Caliente Affairs: On Christmas Eve, the strain begins to show on some of the relationships in Pleasantview. Dina Caliente finds herself still stuck between loving Ed Wilson and staying with Mortimer Goth, tempers flare between Don Lothario and Nina Caliente, and Angela Pleasant faces the reality that she cannot have both Dustin Broke and her dream of travelling the world. And by the end of the day, only one of these relationships will survive.

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tomsbody

I’ve never felt like I belong. I’ve always felt like an alien. As a child, I used to stare into the sky, at the sun, knowing it hurt me. I couldn’t risk looking away in case the aliens that dropped me off were wanting to find a way to send me a message. Reading that back, it’s the most insane thing I’ve ever shared on this blog, but it’s the truth. Living with Congenital Erythropoietic Porphyria is an isolating, unique experience I have trouble explaining, so any way I can express myself, I’ll try it.

I am a nudist, and last week I modelled nude for a life drawing event for the first time.

Being allergic to sunlight, the world would have you believe that if you’re a naturist not being naked outdoors, then you’re just being nude at home and that disqualifies you from being a nudist! I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. Nudism, naturism, whatever you want to call it, what it means to me is the freedom to express myself in a body which for many years (and still to this day) I have felt a prisoner inside of.

We all have our prisons that we may not even realise we’re living behind, but mine is more physical than it is mental. I’ve spent all my life with hospitals as my second home. And for as long as I have known hospitals as my second home, I have known being looked at.

Not as human, but as a patient.

A thing to be studied, to be exposed in front of doctors, nurses, poked and prodded, put inside of machines, having machines attached to me, put inside of me. Surprising as this may be to read, that’s still the case. It’s become a lot more familiar and less dehumanising, but there’ve been no advances in treatment, no improvements to my health, I’ve just somehow managed to keep on living well past what doctors expected me to.

With my body at a disadvantage, all I could do for many years was focus on making my mental aptitude stronger. When it came to exploring my physical attributions… well, that seemed like a path I didn’t have the liberty to take. As I transitioned from teenage, to young adult, and into adulthood – even typing that word “adult” doesn’t feel right. I don’t feel like an adult, because any time my illness has taken a turn for the worst, coming back from that is like hitting a reset button and starting off from your last save point. Truth was, I never used to plan for the future. I expected to be dead. Ageing just isn’t something I ever thought I’d do, okay! I don’t want it to sound morbid or godlike, but I am a realist as much as I am a fantasist, and I assumed I was going to die young. It’s taken many years for me to feel balanced, to feel any sense of confidence, to feel that I’ve reached a point where I can start picturing myself in the future, to start planning ahead. But also feeling I’m at a point where I won’t be setback by the unexpected. The more time I have, the more I realise how things we perceive to be important are actually of little importance. What’s important to me is to live a life without regrets, because the reality of never getting a second chance is more apparent.

Which brings us to being nude. In a room full of people. Some who knew me, some who didn’t. I actually find myself more confident and talkative being naked (as you can see in the pics). On the surface, people see my face first, and they might make preconceived judgements. But with everything on show, they might make those same judgements, but I think it forces those people to humanise me. It actually forces me to humanise myself, and I don’t feel like an alien when I’m naked. I feel like any other normal, attractive guy. the following contains nudity… obviously

Bird Uncaged

How do you know if you’ve broken a rib – and, if you have, does it even benefit you to know that? I don’t think I’ve broken my rib, but I did feel something pop when I was leaning over the side of my bed to pick my laptop up off the floor. This is the second time in a month, and both times have involved a bed (although 90 percent of my life revolves around beds, so there’s nothing special there). If I have broken it, this would be karma for making light of my mum breaking her foot back in August! Trust me to break my rib the moment I reach the intersection of inspiration and motivation and finally decide to be productive and write something.

I started blogging in 2002, and before that I kept a diary from age 8. I’ve always had this need to indulge myself and produce writing, but I haven’t been writing a lot lately – in fact, you could say, I haven’t written anything in ten years. That’s not true, I have written the odd song or blog post, but the majority of my writing has been in those sporadic things called tweets that we’ve become all too familiar with. Ironic, that in sharing more writing than I’ve ever posted before, because of its short form nature, it had zapped me of my desire and passion to write. And I said to myself I wasn’t going to make this big song and dance about it, and preach that I’m better than everyone else, or that I feel less stressed, because it actually has been more stressful, not having this familiar, narcissistic habit to fall back on. This outlet of well-meaning but disingenuous validation and intimacy I would turn to as a means of boosting or stabilising my mood. For what once was a genuine interaction had turned into doing it for the sake of keeping up with everyone else. It wasn’t a decision I even made of my own accord, but I used it as a means to cut the cord. And by acting on that rib-not-breaking impulse of picking up my laptop to write when the urge strikes me, instead of when boredom consumes me, here I am saying I do feel better sharing my words like this once again.