My Top Ten Films of the Noughties

5 Jan

For most of us students, it was the decade when we first moved away from the creature comforts of the family home, the decade in which we first got so drunk we couldn’t remember what happened the next day. For the rest of the world it was an eventful decade too, bringing us the first black President of America, the biggest flu pandemic since the 1960s, the death of the legendary King of Pop and a number of sordid celebrity sex tapes. But as we recover from the celebrations of new years eve, I wanted to look back at what the film industry offered us in the noughties. Going away from the environmental theme and getting into the new year spirit, here is my selection of some of the best movies released in the last decade (apologies in advance to any LOTR fans – it didn’t make my list).

10. Big Fish. (2003, Director Tim Burton) A timeless family classic in which anything really is possible, this film is a personal favourite of mine which reduces me to tears without fail time and time again. A heart warming tale of family relationships and tall tales; Big Fish is a fantasy in which giants, witches, siamese twins and bank robbers all play a part, creating a captivating tale which you’ll never get bored of.

9. Moulin Rouge! (2001, Director Baz Luhrmann) Spectacular, Spectacular!This movie is a must for all musical lovers. With this film, Baz Luhrmann boldly challenged typical Hollywood traits, releasing something completely different that people tend to either love or hate. Dropping all pretences of realism that are so often present in films, this production is an indulgent feast for the eyes and ears as the actors belt their hearts out to catchy, infectious songs against the backdrop of the stunningly glamorous Moulin Rouge night club. Top this off with an amazing love story and you have a must see film of the noughties!

8. Let the Right One In. (2009, Director Tomas Alfredson)  It’s the noughties, and vampires had to feature somewhere. The first foreign language film to feature in my top ten, this Swedish import offers so much more than your average vampire flick. Let the Right One In interweaves horror, drama and romance all set upon a backdrop of snowy Stockholm in the early eighties. With scenes of romance constantly juxtaposed with images of brutal, bloody violence, this film probably isn’t for the faint-hearted. But combining horror, coming-of-age drama, romance and realism, it is a dark yet uplifting film, which can offer something to everyone.

7. The Motorcycles Diaries (2004, Director Walter Salles) Another foreign language film, this time from sunny Spain, this biopic follows the journey of Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granado on a road trip across South America in the 1950s. The Motorcycle Diaries documents with humour and compassion how the world changed Ernesto and lead him to change the world when he later became the infamous Che Guevara, and is certainly worth a watch if you don’t mind the subtitles.

6. Brokeback Mountain (2006, Director Ang Lee) A landmark in cinematic history, this is arguably one of the greatest romances of all time. Heath Ledger and Jake Gylenhall pull off the most powerful performances of their careers as two cow boys who fall in love in the outback of Texas in the 1960s, a time when homosexuality was still very much shunned. We follow the two and their forbidden love throughout their lives in a tender, bittersweet story which is an instant classic.

5. Memento (2000, Director Christopher Nolan) One of my favourite thrillers of all time, this fast-paced, addictive, confusing conundrum will keep you asking questions long after the movie is finished. Starting with a brutal murder and then working backwards revealing to the viewer the motives behind the murder in reverse order, the less said about this little film noir gem, the better.

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Director Michel Gondry) So much more than a rom com, this little gem takes a firm place in my top five films of all time. If you can get past the confusing structure of the film, you will appreciate it’s beauty as it examines the importance of memories and love, in a quirky and refreshing way. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet act brilliantly against their stereotype roles and prove that opposites really do attract, in a bizarre but remarkable movie.

3. Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2 (2003 and 2004, Director Quentin Taratino) Okay, so I may have cheated a bit but these two films fit together wonderfully as one big Tarantino extravaganza. With this picture, Tarantino is back on the amazing form we first saw with 1994’s classic Pulp Fiction. Genres a blended to create an artistic and extreme revenge flick, starring Uma Thurman as The Bride, a very angry ex-assassin, bent on killing her former hit squad the Viper Squad. It may not be to all tastes, but for those who enjoyed Pulp Fiction this is a must.

2. Atonement (2007, Director Joe Wright) The first time I watched this film it completely blew me away. Shattering my expectations, British film Atonement is so much more than just a romance; this film depicts how small mistakes can alter people’s lives forever. As we follow how the three main characters’ lives are altered by one child’s mistake, you’ll find yourself laughing, crying and questioning your own values. Stunning scenery, a top class script and storyline and amazing performances come together to make a movie that is, for me, as close to perfect as a film can get.

1. Slumdog Millionaire (2008, Director Danny Boyle) No film list would be complete without this surprise critically acclaimed blockbuster from Britain’s own Film Four. The ultimate rags to riches romance, Slumdog Millionaire is a moving, uplifting depicting one boy’s journey from the Slums of India to achieving his dream on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. With a brilliant soundtrack and great acting from previously unknown actors, this film deserved all the hype it got and more.

Advertisements

White Lions – A Dying Breed

4 Jun

As some of you may know, myself and fellow journalist Natalie Adcock visited West Midlands Safari Park last Saturday (30th May). The main aim of this visit was to find out what the Safari Park was doing to promote World Environment Day, which you can find more about on Natalie’s podcast. But of course we took advantage of the beautiful weather and went around the Safari Park itself while we were there – who wouldn’t?!

As we went round the park there were so many gorgeous animals, but the part that particularly caught my eye was the Kingdom of the White Lions.

Entering the Kingdom of the White Lions

 

West Midlands Safari Park has eight white lions in total, although they were quite hard to spot – the lazy creatures didn’t seem very keen on the hot sun, and preferred to lounge in the shade, or underneath shelters.

 

Lazy lions...

Lazy lions...

 

Having known little about the breed of white lions before, apart from that they’re endangered, I decided to do some more research into this elegant species.

It turns out white lions are not simply albino, as I’d first thought, they are in fact a rare colour mutation of the Kruger lion, originating from South Africa. They are something of a legend in their native Africa, regarded as divine, because of their unique colouring.

So, why are they classed as an endangered species? White Lions are one of the most hunted species of lion, specifically because of their colouring. The unique white-blonde colour of these lions makes them an easy target for hunters from the West, as they stand out. They are also very rare because they are a result of a mutation, and so they only occur when two lions carrying the mutant gene mate.

After looking further into the subject of white lions I must say I feel privileged to be that close to them at the Safari Park – they can usually only be found in wildlife reserves in South Africa, and West Midlands Safari Park was the first UK park to host a pride of these lions when they arrived from Africa in 2004.

An even more shocking statistic; according to the West Midlands Safari Park website, there are only around 70 white lions existing in the whole world!

It was discouraging to find out that such a stunning animal is in danger, but there are plenty of organisations aiming to help preserve the White Lion species, such as the Global White Lion Protection Trust. This is a non-profit based conservation and community development organisation based in South Africa striving to protect the rare white lion.

I can only hope that this communities and other communities working to help endangered animals get all the support and funding they can to keep up the good work and save the white lions!

 

I'll leave you with a close up of my favourite white lion from West Midlands Safari Park!

I'll leave you with a close up of my favourite white lion from West Midlands Safari Park!

Top Ten Environmental Groups to follow on Twitter

2 Jun

Since writing for environmental news website Birmingham Recycled I’ve developed an interest in environmental news and developments, in my local area, nationally and worldwide. Twitter is a great way to keep up to date on the latest news, environmental or otherwise, through short, succinct “tweets”, just telling you what you need to know. I’ve been following various environmental groups on Twitter for a while now, as it is a simple way to keep on top of the latest efforts, campaigns and debates going on in the environmental world.

So, here are my top ten….

  • Friends of the Earth @wwwfoecouk – The UK environmental campaigning organisation on Twitter

  • Earth Hour 2009 @earthhour – Raising awareness and action to help the earth globally

  • Greenpeace @greenpeace – The Global campaigning organisation, encouraging people to get active

  • Twilight Earth@twilightearth – Twilight Earth are an American based group who say they want to save the environment through shared news discussion and activism.

  • Conservation News @conservationnews – Offers automated updates on wildlife and conservation issues.

  • Be More Eco @bemoreeco – A website dedicated to “all things eco” – automatically tweets all new articles posted on the website

  • Environment Actions @enviroactions – part of Social Actions – they give you plenty of ideas on how to get active about the environment.

  • Planet Green @planetgreen – Offering practical every day tips for leading a greener lifestyle

  • Planet Save @psave – Planet Save is a website claiming to bring you green news, commentary and services, encouraging followers to join in and take action.

  • Nature Conservancy @nature_org – A leading conservation organisation working for people and nature

And one more…

  • Birmingham Recycled @bhamrecycled – Our very own environmental news website, focusing on environmental news from the Midlands but including some nationwide aswell. Written solely by journalism students from Birmingham City University. We do try to provide you with the most original and up to date environmental news possible, and encourage debate and deliberation – so do take a look and tell us what you think!

Evacuation of Islands due to climate change

8 May

I recently stumbled across an article in the Guardian entitled Climate change displacement has begun – but hardly anyone has noticed. I’ve got to say that this article drew me in due to the pure shock factor.

We’ve all heard the lectures, the environmental preachers claiming that global warming will lead to the end of the world. But I never really thought of it as a reality before. How can it be that a whole community has been evacuated due to climate change, and yet the media don’t seem to really be bothered? The homepage for the Mirror newspaper today focuses on a story about Richard and Judy. Surely something’s wrong with our priorities here?

The place in question here is The Carteret Islands, Papa New Guinea islands located in the South Pacific ocean. The community in question is the population, of around 2,600 people who will be relocated to new sites to escape the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels on their land. According to Wikipedia, Carteret Islanders are a dark-skinned Halia-speaking community who call themselves the Tuluun. The community have over 1000 songs they can sing from memory. Are they seeming more real to you yet? The Ecologist‘s blogger Dan Box witnessed the beginning of the evacuation first hand.

Even though these people seem worlds away from us Westerners, global warming and climate change and problems that will start to affect us all if more isn’t done. The Guardian states:

This is the event that foreshadows the likely mass displacement of people from coastal cities and low-lying regions as a result of rising sea levels. The disaster has begun, but so far hardly anyone has noticed.

Further information on the evacuation of the Carteret Islanders can be found on:

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2003/05/28/866600.htm

http://solomontimes.com/news.aspx?nwID=3964

Benefits of Biking

7 Apr

I recently wrote an article on Birmingham Recycled about the up and coming Bike Week. This is an annual event that will be held this June, nationwide, to encourage people to get cycling. It got me thinking about the benefits of cycling, for the individual person, and the world around them.

A healthier mode of transport

  • According to the British Heart Foundation, cycling at least 20 miles per week reduces your risk of coronary heart disease by half of that of non-cyclers.

  • According to the National forum for Coronary Heart Disease, regular cycling have a fitness level of that to a person ten years younger than them.

  • Bike For All offers a Calorie Calculator to help you calculate how many calories you burn, by cycling and through other sports, using your weight and BMI.

     

Credit-crunching cycling

  • A good bike can last decades – and needs a lot less maintenance that a car.

  • Bikes require no tax, no insurance, no licence and, most importantly no fuel bills!

  • Cycling is one of the only free ways to travel; save yourself money on car fuel and bills, or on public transport.

 

A greener way of travelling

  • Making a bicycle requires only a tiny amount of the materials and energy required to make a motor vehicle.

  • Cycling produces no direct pollution!

  • This means pollutants in the air are reduced, which is better for people’s health. It also helps protect green areas from the adverse effects of pollution.

  • They take up less space too – about twenty bicycles can be parked in the same amount of space as one car.

  • Carbon Neutral offers a calculator which allows you to work out how much C02 emissions your car produces – now compare that to a bicycle, which produces none at all!

 

So, with so many advantages to cycling, I think as many people as possible should take part in the Bike Week event. I took up cycling for about three months last year over summer (where I am living now I have no room to keep a bike) and in that time I lost about a stone without dieting, and I was helping the environment! And if I can do it, there’s no reason why other people can’t too. 🙂

Newspapers – a “waste of trees”?

13 Mar

After writing an article about the Metro’s recycling campaign, I was recently pointed in the direction of an article entitled Save Money. Save Trees. Abandon your newspaper, (thanks to @wildelycreative). This article got me thinking about the concept of all newspapers converting to online – would it work? Is it likely to be the case in five, or ten years time? We all know that newspapers are apparently the “dying breed” of journalism, and most big newspapers have extensive online databases. Would it be that big a step to cut out the printing of the paper altogether and make it just available online?

I personally have never thought that much about how much paper, and therefore trees, is wasted on newspapers and magazines before. The amount of paper that is printed, to just be read or even just skimmed through once, then thrown away, is huge. According to enotes, on average a years worth of a newspaper (one a day) produces 250 kilograms of waste paper. And when you think about how light paper is, that’s quite a lot!

So, would the idea of all newspapers converting to online-only work in reality? I’m undecided at the moment. I know I like reading my daily Metro or trashy magazine on long train journeys, or when I’m stuck waiting somewhere. And reading a newspaper is a lot easier than having to cart a lap top around to catch up on news on the go. Another concern with newspapers producing their content online, is, where would they get their money from? It is very unlikely that many people would be willing to pay to access online news with the current economical climate. Newspapers converting to an online-only format may not be a feasible concept at the moment, but only time will tell.

Lickey Hills Conservation Workday

9 Mar

On Sunday, 8th March, myself and Natalie Adcock attended a Conservation Workday at Lickey Hills Heath. After Natalie wrote an article about this day for Birminghamrecycled.co.uk, we decided to follow it up, and find out what this conservation day was all about!

The workday, which takes place every Winter and Autumn, is open to the public to volunteer to help with the work, because of staff shortages at Lickey Hills.

It started at 11am, so myself and Natalie had to get up bright and early at 9.30 – not a time I am particularly keen on facing on a Sunday! As soon as we set out for Lickey Hills, typically, it started to rain. We arrived at the visitor’s area, where we had to wait for about fifteen minutes to see if the rain eased off. The park ranger, Steve, explained it is too dangerous to take volunteers out on the heath in the rain. Luckily for us though, the weather cleared up after a little while, and we set off to the heathland. We were kitted out in bright yellow anoraks and large gloves to protect us from the weather conditions – not a good look!

There was quite a poor turnout for the day – headed to the heath was just myself, Natalie, our photographer, and just two other volunteers from the public, with Steve leading the way. But despite this and the cold weather, there was a positive atmosphere, with the volunteers ready to get stuck into work. We met a woman who is passionate about recycling, and works for the Bromsgrove part of Freecycling. She told us “It’s just amazing to see what can be recycled if you look in the right places!”

The Lickey Hills Heath is classed as an endangered area, “Even more endangered that Rainforests!” Steve told us, “Years ago, it was over 600 acres, now it’s down to just 60 acres.”

So, what was our job for the day? We were there to removed unwanted trees and bramble growing on the heathland, that are stunting the growth of endangered plants such as heather and moss.

We were given three different tools. Firstly, clippers, to cut down the majority of the tree and cut down the bramble. Secondly, a saw, to cut through the tree stumps. Steve gave us very strict instructions on the safety of using the saws, emphasising that the guard must be on at all times when the saw is not in use.  We were told to never hang saws from trees, as “it’s pretty painful if it swings in your face.” He’d also bought a first aid kit along “just in case”  – it was all a bit daunting!

We were also provided with forks, to dig up the roots of the weeds and bramble. If you can, it’s much better to get these plants out at the roots, rather than just cutting them, because if they’re simply cut down, people will have to be back there in a couple of years, cutting them down again.

So the volunteers and park ranger all got stuck into work. Luckily, we got the hang of using the tools fairly easily, apart from a little blip when Nat accidently cut down some Heather – the endangered plant – and got a telling off from the park ranger!

It was satisfying watching the piles of cut down trees grow, and as the day progressed, the heath was looking clearer and clearer. Getting rid of the unwanted plants meant that the Heath was a lot clearer, and we could see how pretty the heather and moss really is. We even had dog walkers passing by offer us their support!

At the end of the day, all the cut down wood was piled up. We left it in the heath where a “chipper” machine would later come to dispose of it. We didn’t get a chance to see this machine, but Steve told us it’s “Massive! Like something out of a film, it’s got teeth!”

After a hard day’s work, the group headed back to the visitors centre for a well-deserved cup of tea. It was an enjoyable day, and of course it’s always good to know that you are doing good! See the pictures from the day here.

The park rangers suggested that we could get a group of Birmingham City University students to return to the heath, for a day of conservation work. He said we would get a chance to do other jobs, such as building. Anyone interested?