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NFT: The New Next-Gen

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We live in a world dominated by virtual consumption. Whether you are into gaming, movies, or knitting, it is hard to avoid contact with some form of a digital community. Planet Earth is consumed by this form of technology which has no end in sight. When it comes to gaming specifically, there are a number of factors that drive gamers: adventure, relaxation, stress-relief, and an avenue that has real estate of its own – collecting.

The standard “gamer” actually does not exist – shooters, role players, platformers, nostalgia seekers, or Fortnite celebrities – gamers often transcend the boundaries of genres. We see undying allegiances to gaming companies such as Nintendo or Sony and inexplicable emotional ties to games from decades past. Whatever the case, there lies an audience of consumers who may not even fit the true bill of what a “gamer” is.

Collectors are seen in the world over in every light and hobby known to man – and video games are no exception to this rule. We’ve seen entire YouTube channels dedicated to nostalgia, where a well-known “gamer” shows off not only a Dragon’s Quest 11 gameplay on the PS4 but his collection of Dragon’s Quest 1-10 and replicas of the Hero Sword to millions of viewers. Sometimes, collecting can even turn into its own form of gaming – and this is where the market for coveted gems gets driven up even more.

So, without further ado, welcome to the world of NFTs, or non-fungible-tokens. NFTs are digital goods that exist on a digital ledger called blockchain. Each NFT represents a distinctive digital item, deeming it non-interchangeable. NFTs can represent a wide array of materials such as art, video, audio, and video game items. Each NFT is unique and its ownership can be precisely tracked.

For years people have had such an emotional attachment to physical entities, be it a Mickey Mantle baseball card or a one-of-a-kind piece of art. The market for rare items has survived in a world of physical seclusion, and this is now being turned upside down as the world faces a conversion to virtual materiality. Physical isolation in the age of COVID has only accelerated the transition to virtual existence. Digital media has never had much assignable value because it was always so easily duplicated. In allowing people to enumerate an official copy of a piece of art, NFTs finally give value to digital goods that used to have none.

Digital technology has had its fair share of criticism over the years, and NFTs have been closely associated with Bitcoin, the system used for cryptocurrency. But the $1.5 billion NFT transaction volume in the first quarter of 2021 alone speaks volumes about its transition to the mainstream.

Games that are using NFTs are not very large in abundance currently, but with the craze ascending on a near-daily basis, it seems unlikely that the market will stay small for long. The video game industry in the US alone accounted for over $60 billion USD in 2020. This signifies that not only is it beyond profitable but also that it begets growth beyond the norms of major consoles.

It’s not hard to conceptualize the full potential for a gaming-NFT intersection. One such instance of this is an NFT-based game, titled The Sandbox. Gamers can purchase plots of a virtual sandbox as an NFT in the game, allowing everyone to be the landowners they never were. The game sold $2.8 million worth of product just in the month of February alone and is said to be worth over $35 million by its creators. The growth of this market is rapidly expanding.

Collectors are driven by the rarity of an item and this is what truly gives such value to NFT items. Imagine having one-of-a-kind Legend of Zelda images or the original sketch of a video game character such as Cloud Strife. These things would hold immense value, and with a world that is diving headfirst into digital reality, it seems the reality is NFTs are the new way to level up.

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‘Swede Caroline’ Review | An Unbe-leaf-ably Gourd Thyme!

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“Swede Caroline” is a delightful romp that showcases the eccentric world of competitive vegetable growing, tossing in a bushel of comedy and unexpected twists with a touch of heartfelt depth. The film, presented in a mockumentary style that’s influenced by the latest trend of Netflix’s true crime documentaries, follows the story of Caroline, played brilliantly by Jo Hartley, as she navigates the cutthroat world of giant vegetable competitions. Hartley’s nuanced performance anchors the film like a finely seasoned dish bringing depth and authenticity to her character’s journey from suburban strife to high-stakes drama by solving mysteries one vegetable at a thyme!”

Directed by Brook Driver and Finn Bruce, “Swede Caroline” starts innocently enough but quickly sprouts and escalates into a wild ride of conspiracy, betrayal, and unexpected leafy alliances. The film cleverly combines elements of “Best In Show” and “Hot Fuzz” with a touch of “Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” creating a unique and engaging British experience for the audience. For the directors Swede Caroline” is a passion project; one with a lot of phallic puns. This is evident in each character, all of which are loved in the way you might love your weird relative. Bruce and Driver’s attention to detail is another sign of the duo’s love for this project.

In this British Mockumentary, the competitive giant vegetable-growing world is rocked by scandal when up-and-coming prospect Caroline (Jo Hartley) has her prized marrow plants stolen. With her life turned upside down and desperate for answers, she turns to two private detectives (Aisling Bea and Ray Fearon), who are then dramatically kidnapped. Are the events linked? No, of course not. But Caroline thinks they are and the hunt for her missing marrows takes her way beyond the allotments, plunging her into a national corruption scandal that goes all the way to the top!! As Caroline readies herself for the big championship with the help of her trusty partners Willy (Celyn Jones) and Paul (Richard Lumsden), she sets off in search of the truth. On the way enduring kidnappings, car chases and – worst of all – courgettes. But will the culprit ever be caught? Caroline (Jo Hartley) is being followed by a documentary crew led by Kirsty (Rebekah Murrell) whose report on pesticides has tangentially uncovered controversy among the large vegetable growing community that competes each year at Shepton Mallet but uncovers something more sinister than horticultural sabotage, ultimately peeling back the layers of deception in the veggie underworld.

 Photograph: Picnik Entertainment

Throughout, the film bounces from one quintessential British location to the next, showcasing what the village environment has to offer as Caroline’s quest leads her from allotments to service stations, by way of chip shops and the odd lay-by. This award-winning debut Feature from Bruce and Driver pokes a comedic carrot at the eccentric world of competitive vegetable growers, And not since Wallace and Gromit encountered the were-rabbit has competitive vegetable growing been so quarrelsome.

The vegetable-packed ensemble cast of eccentric characters includes Paul Lumsden, Celyn Jones, Aisling Bea, and Alice Lowe, all deliver standout performances, adding layers of humour and depth to their quirky characters. The witty dialogue, improvisation, and offbeat comedy kept me engaged and entertained throughout the film.

Jo Hartley who’s also an executive producer on the film gives such a standout performance as Caroline, her comedic timing is excellent, as walks that line of making a character smart but also oblivious and missing out on common sense, which is a great combination for Caroline. She’s the heart of this band of lovable garden-growing eccentrics. Caroline feels like a very real character, a convincingly lonely woman invested in her marrows and equally reliant and irritated by her friends. Hartley suits this film well and showcases a performance that’s a step away from her recent roles. I fell in love with her innocence and determination to win.

Caroline exudes a certain discomfort in front of the camera, yet maintains a stoic British demeanour, unwilling to make a scene. Despite her reluctance, Harlrley’s performance is fueled by raw emotion, revealing a character who resists the life imposed upon her by the film. Nevertheless, when the camera turns towards her, Caroline radiates a captivating presence, injecting a sense of truth, authenticity, and vitality into the film. Surprising both the audience and her fellow characters, Caroline and Hartley both emerge as a hidden gem, gradually winning hearts and garnering support as the film progresses. Caroline proves to be a captivating presence that grows on viewers over time, leaving a lasting impression that transcends initial perceptions. Jo Hartley’s performance as Caroline is a standout, capturing the essence of a reluctant hero in a world of cutthroat competition. Like the film, she is a grower, not a shower.

 Photograph: Picnik Entertainment

There is an air of conspiracy made by the committee’s decisions denying Caroline her place in the competition because of her massive marrows, made by vegetable bigwigs over misogyny and class. Frustrated are her two sidekicks in the form of Richard Lumsden and Celyn Jones, Lumsden brings that classic overconfidence without the intelligence to back it up, loyal but not always the most helpful, which is enjoyable to watch, he’s a conspiracy theorist and features some of the greatest and wackiest t-shirt designs. Then Jones brings us the adorable and dedicated Willy, who’s committed to helping Caroline live out her dreams. He’s a simple guy and Jones’ performance makes him an absolute joy to watch. The film is gloriously silly, with the three reliably retaining their composure as they uncover the truth behind Caroline’s tragic vegetable loss.  

 Photograph: Picnik Entertainment

The mystery takes in local corruption, kidnapping, and mysterious Russian femme fatales.  Toss in a slice of inappropriate madness from swinging private detectives Lawrence and Lousie played by Aisling Bea and  Ray Fearon, who is everything these vegetable growers are not, but part of a world that Caroline used to belong to. Fay Ripley, Jeff Bennett, and Neil Edmond turn up as fellow rival growers, whilst featuring a scene-stealing cameo from Alice Lowe,

“Swede Caroline” is not just a comedy; it’s a heartfelt exploration of friendship, rivalry, and the pursuit of one’s passion. It’s a film that will make you laugh out loud, but also tug at your heartstrings with its genuine portrayal of human emotions. I cannot express enough how much I appreciated the film since starting my own journey into gardening and growing my own vegetables not as big as Gary. It’s provided me with a new perspective and appreciation for the intricacies of gardening and growing veg , highlighting the hard work and dedication that goes into cultivating a successful garden. “Swede Caroline” has become my favourite independent quintessential British film, capturing the beauty and challenges of garden growing in a heartfelt and authentic way. The characters and storyline though made me laugh have resonated with me on a personal level, inspiring me to continue learning and growing as a gardener, and who knows maybe I’ll grow some marrows that Caroline herself would be proud of. I am grateful for the insight and inspiration that “Swede Caroline” has brought to my gardening endeavours, making it a truly memorable and cherished film.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, “Swede Caroline” is a must-see for fans of quirky comedies and mockumentaries. It’s a film that will leave you smiling and rooting for the underdog, all while immersing you in a world where giant vegetables reign supreme.

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‘Sometimes I Think About Dying’ Review | A Poignant Portrait On Internal Struggles

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Based on the 2013 play Killers by Armento and a 2019 short, Sometimes I Think About Dying, director Rachel Lambert’s film “Sometimes I Think About Dying,” starring and produced by Daisy Ridley, offers a poignant and introspective exploration of social anxiety, isolation, and suicidal impulses. The film delicately unfolds in a small Oregon coastal town, with Ridley’s character, Fran, navigating the background of life as she grapples with daydreams of her death. Ridley delivers a captivating performance, showcasing her range outside of her iconic role in the Star Wars saga. 

Lost on the dreary Oregon coast, Fran (Daisy Ridley) finds solace in her cubicle, listening to the constant hum of officemates and occasionally daydreaming to pass the time. She is ghosting through life, unable to pop her bubble of isolation, however when a friendly new coworker, Robert (Dave Merheje) persistently tries to connect with her. Though it goes against every fibre of her being, she may have to give this guy a chance. 

Fran likes to think about dying. It brings sensation to her quiet life. When she makes the new guy at work laugh, it leads to more: a date, a slice of pie, a conversation, a spark. The only thing standing in their way is Fran herself. 

Photograph: Vertigo Releasing

Working as an office administrator, it’s a role she quietly excels at, the film masterfully captures the awkwardness of Fran’s interactions with her co-workers, highlighting her struggles to speak up and navigate social situations. Lambert’s direction immersed me in Fran’s perspective, creating a sense of intimacy and empathy for her internal struggles with introversion and loneliness. The portrayal of social anxiety and awkwardness feels authentic and relatable, resonating with the complexities of human connection in a world filled with loneliness. Lambert chose to tell this story, identifying as I did with Isolation and how a person can feel when they struggle to find a connection in the world that surrounds them. Fran ultimately is a person who wants to feel love, and joy and communicate with others but that path throughout the film plays mysteriously and is often out of reach for her. So for comfort like many others, Fran retreats into her mind, creating a landscape of forest floors and oceans. The mind is where you can imagine all sorts of things for delight and often stimulation. Sometimes they are images that allow her to fathom the ultimate escape from life. These ideations, while allowing her to feel the extremity of sensation, can only deepen her feelings of being too ‘different’ or ‘strange.’ Thus, a chasm between her public and private self grows. Until that is, she meets Robert, who disrupts her patterns of orderly disassociation.

There’s a lot of loneliness in the world today, and this film captures that realistically, slowly revealing each of the two main characters. Fran and Robert meet and awkwardly start a relationship. As they embark on this awkward relationship, the film beautifully balances moments of melancholy with glimpses of hope and humour. Lambert skillfully restricts dialogue, allowing visual storytelling to take centre stage and evoke emotional depth. The film’s blend of influences, from deadpan humour to human drama, results in a captivating and thought-provoking narrative that raises awareness about mental health issues. If you are introverted like me, the arrival of new friends tends to disrupt patterns. However, she is embraced instead of being shunned by Robert at her most vulnerable. She is seen. And her pain appears to dissolve. Fran is a woman who channels so much of the anxiety, fear, and dread that plagues her body in this moment, and, yet, she remains determined to find meaning. She is unwearying, messy, hilarious and, also, in some pain. I found it rather consoling to see that portrayed honestly. 

Photograph: Vertigo Releasing

“Sometimes I Think About Dying” serves as a quiet yet profound examination of social anxiety, depression, and the challenges of putting oneself out there. The film’s beautiful score and tone enhance its portrayal of an introverted love story, offering a tender and sensitive look at the complexities of the human experience. When thinking about death one is worrying about living. I get so worked up about living, and living rightly that I overthink in my head so I end up taking up residence there. That’s what Fran does. With Robert now in the picture, Lambert allows Fran’s story to step out into the day which allows Fran to see what’s right in front of her. And risk loving it all for the sake of being alive. Fran is not interested in hurting herself, that’s not her goal.  What I felt whilst watching is that pain, for her, has to do more with figuring out how to be a person in the world, and to be comfortable with all that entails. Ridley’s standout performance, coupled with Lambert’s nuanced direction, makes this film a compelling and emotionally resonant cinematic experience that offers an artful portrayal of shyness.

This independent feature truly showcases the highest level of craftsmanship in filmmaking. The static lensing and composed shots, thanks to cinematographer Dustin Lane, guide the audience to notice tiny, delicate details ultimately finding beauty and emotional resonance in everyday moments. Director Fran’s subtle approach allows us to dig deeper into the story, with lead actress Ridley’s remarkable ability to convey emotions through subtle gestures adding a layer of depth to the film. The score by composer Dabney Morris brings such a melancholic feel to the film, which is the perfect accompaniment to writers Kevin Armento, Stefanie Abel Horowitz and Katy Wright-Mead’s screenplay.

Photograph: Vertigo Releasing

Alongside a subtle sense of melancholy, as we’ve mentioned, the film also offers moments of hope and joy in the protagonist’s simple pleasures. From Fran excelling at her job to enjoying cottage cheese and wine in her apartment, the film embraces the beauty in life’s small moments. The inclusion of black humour adds an unexpected twist, such as during a murder-mystery game where Fran’s fascination with death serves her well. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

In conclusion, “Sometimes I Think About Dying” is a moving and thought-provoking exploration of mental health and human connection, brought to life through stellar performances and visually rich storytelling. Lambert’s directorial vision and Ridley’s compelling portrayal make this film a must-watch for those seeking a deeper understanding of social anxiety and the complexities of the human psyche. I found it rather cathartic and sincere.

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First Look at Maggie Gyllenhaal’s ‘The Bride’

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Maggie Gyllenhaal/Niko Tavernise/Instagram

We have our first look at ‘The Bride.’ New images released by director Maggie Gyllenhaal show Christian Bale as Frankenstein’s monster. Gyllenhaal, who is teaming up Warner Bros. Pictures shared the first images from a camera test to her Instagram account. The all-star cast opposite of Christian Bale and Jessie Buckley are Penélope Cruz, Peter Sarsgaard and Annette Bening. The film will also have “Joker” cinematographer Lawrence Sher.

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