Monday, 24 July 2017

things that have changed my life

In a small corner of my brain is a folder titled 'things that have changed my life'. At 18, this list is currently rather small:
1. the 2016 BBC miniseries 'War and Peace' 
2. series 1 of the ITV series 'The Durrells' 
2. the novel 'Frenchman's Creek' by Daphne du Maurier
3. the 2017 film 'Dunkirk' directed by Christopher Nolan

When I choose to watch or read things I do not usually intend for them to have such a profound impact upon me. 'War and Peace', for instance, changed my life beyond comprehension. I cannot really tell you how it affected me in tangible terms, I think it just changed my perceptions and sort of expanded my mind with regards to human emotions. I'm fully aware of how pretentious that sounds, but nevertheless it is true. The story was told in such a raw way and I think there was probably something really touching and new for me in the way I could recognise universally-felt human emotions being experienced. I don't really know what I'm saying: the heart of the matter is that War and Peace changed my life in a way I didn't expect from the Sunday-night tv schedules. The same goes for the du Maurier novel. 

Three of her books were bought for me a long time ago, probably before GCSEs, and their existence consisted of sitting forgotten at the bottom of an ever-growing 'to read' pile that spurted up during GCSEs and continued to gain height throughout my A-Levels. Now it is summer, the strangely suspended period between A-Levels and the time in September which is unnervingly 'unknown'. Although everything rests dependently upon results day, I am working via assumptions and still looking towards September with the knowledge that I will be attending university - results day will inform me where it is I will be going for certain. Thus I am encompassed by a seemingly omnipresent need to ensure I am ready intellectually speaking. For some reason, summer holidays always come with a sense of guilt for me: my brain goes into an overdrive wherein I replay the last year of education and overthink all the wasted time spent scrolling mindlessly through Instagram - time I could've spent reading books, watching films and generally making myself 'culturally aware'. It's quite hard though. I wake up too late, I waste time on my phone, I get restless and am unable to just read, or pick a film to watch. Despite my difficulties I am still attempting to educate myself prior to September when I will enter a new world. Hence, I forced myself to read 'Frenchman's Creek' and experienced the real-life, physical action of being unable to put down a book. I read it in about a day and a half and was simply mesmerised. Whilst her writing doesn't necessarily appear overly-constructed or flowery on the surface (something which perhaps wrongly indicates to me I am reading a piece of 'literature'), it is what lies beneath the surface that captivated me. Again, it's how she writes about the human spirit and how she captures the core of human emotion so perfectly that kept me, to use a critic's term, 'hooked'. 

All this explanation is getting away from what I really wanted to talk about. I'd like to preface this by saying that when my friends and I decided to book tickets to see 'Dunkirk' on Saturday night, the catalysing factor was Harry Styles' acting debut. Now, I'd like to add a sort of sub-preface and assure you that a Harry Styles obsession is an anomaly in my personality. When I admitted to one of my work colleagues a month or so ago that the reason I was rushing out in my afternoon break was to buy his new record on vinyl (don't worry - I didn't end up buying it) she looked at me with a sort of confusion mixed with disgust as her constructed image of me fell to pieces. My relationship with people I fancy (or to use my phrasing, 'People I Am Absolutely In Love With') often reaches dangerous levels. I don't know where this tendency in my personality has come from, or what, indeed, it has been nurtured by, but nevertheless it exists. After seeing the band Blossoms for the first time about a year ago I spent a solid two months checking Tom Ogden's Twitter likes on a daily basis and rather creepily checking through Blossoms' Instagram tagged photos to see everything they had been associated with (aka looking for traces of a girlfriend). Sometimes the obsessions will creep up on me without warning. Past obsessions include: Benedict Cumberbatch (sub-obsession Andrew Scott), Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Hardy, the band Haim, Alexa Chung etc etc. Harry Styles however, didn't have any sort of root cause, and seemed like the kind of person I would normally despise. I hated One Direction at the height of their fame. Then James Corden did Carpool Karaoke with them, and Zayn left, and my friends and I became weirdly attached to the band, just as the hype was dying down. My spotify had to be set to private as I would listen to 'Best Song Ever' on a loop. We would spend sleepovers watching fan-created youtube videos entitled things like 'the real harry styles' which consisted of lots of clips badly edited together accompanied by comments by the fan themself in questionable choices of font. Then Harry announced his solo career and the obsession took full force. My friends and I would send each other interviews to watch, photos we'd found and would even have matching phone lockscreens with the latest photoshoot Harry had done. At 17/18 years old we were reverting to the 14 year old selves we never were. And when it was announced Harry was starring in Dunkirk, alongside the likes of Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy it was as if the universe was allowing our dreams to come true before our very eyes. Months went past as it featured regularly in our conversations: had we all watched the latest trailer?, had we seen the behind the scenes photos leaked from the set?, had we seen that short haircut Harry was sporting? A week before the release of the film, we had unintentionally planned a sleepover  for the Saturday night, the night after the film was being released across the UK. We immediately booked tickets at the cutesy independent cinema in our town, and come Saturday night we were all more than ready. 

We were excited for the film itself of course; as more and more trailers were released and articles began being published it became increasingly obvious that this was going to be 'A Good Film'. I was not aware however, of quite how good it would be. I'm often unable to sit down and write an explicit 'review' as I find myself repeating phrases and fumbling for things to say, so I shall be brief. 

Whilst most films are often escapist, offering viewers a 90 minute interval to the rest of their lives, 'Dunkirk' acts as the polar opposite. The viewer is not passive: the act of watching the film is more of an experience. You leave the cinema and are forced to apply the garnered knowledge from what you have just seen to your daily life. It filters in to your perceptions, your outlook on the world, and as 18 year olds, the narrative played out in the film, told from the perspective of a handful of characters the very same age as us as viewers, meant the effect was arguably heightened. 

But this is not the only way in which Dunkirk is not like other films. The narrative trajectory is different from the start: it's told in three different time frames, from three different story arcs. A day on the sea, an hour in the air and a week from the beaches. These stories eventually overlap, as the beaches become affected by the stories at sea, intertwining with the experiences with the air, and so on. It is because of this that there is no clear demarcation with regards to rising action, climax and catharsis. In service of realism, the rising action seems ever-present, constantly oscillating between brief interludes of confusion, quickly descending into panic - felt by the viewer in the form of a dangerously fast heartbeat. The film itself begins in media res and it never seems to leave it: five minutes in and the viewer is already rooting for the characters, in blind panic, and 5 minutes later, again, a new panic and suspense ensues and again rising action climbs quickly to its peak before starting again. The film is both a journey and an experience, and leaving the cinema at 8pm, walking the deserted evening streets of the town, felt rather strange in comparison. 

As my friend remarked on the car journey home, Dunkirk saw her "fall in love with seven men". Harry Styles can remarkably, actually act, Fionn Whitehead, a newcomer, has you rooting for him from the first scene, Tom Hardy is incredible as ever, and faces from War and Peace - Jack Lowden and Aneurin Barnard - gave incredible performances. Near the end, I began to cry very quietly, hoping I would be able to wipe the tears away and stem the flood I knew was lurking underneath. As the final scene played out however, a steady stream of full-blown sobbing ensued. I'm talking proper, snotty, uncontrollable weeping. I cry at a lot of things (Love Island included), but I had never, until that moment, cried in the cinema. Both my friends proceeded to laugh at me, and I left the cinema with mascara streamed down my cheeks, feeling very strange about the world. 

All in all, I recommend the film highly. I booked tickets so as to catch a glimpse of Harry Styles and I left wanting to watch the film again, wanting to stay in the realm of that world forever. It's now Monday and the film is still in my thoughts, and I am contemplating going to see it again. 

In other news, I am sitting in my room surrounded by mess, after having gone through everything I have already bought and collected for university. I am now drinking coffee and am going to listen to the remainder of the podcast episode I was listening to before I decided on a whim to start blogging again. 

Until next time,

things i have been enjoying recently:

- fashion documentaries: Dior and I, The First Monday in May, Bill Cunningham New York and the British Vogue series with Alexa Chung on Youtube 
- podcasts: 'My Dad Wrote a Porno' and 'Private Parts'
- books: The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing and Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier 
- the film 'Okja' on Netflix 
- albums: Something to tell you by Haim and Pure Comedy by Father John Misty 

things i have not enjoyed recently:

- the film 'Frances Ha' 
- the book 'The Great Gatsby' (i'm sorry - I just didn't get attached to it) 

Saturday, 29 April 2017

insert cool post title here

Hello World,
The day has finally come - I managed to drag someone into taking photos of me so as to create a blog post that wasn't just me crying over sixth form, interspersed between random snapshots taken on my phone in an odd time frame.

On Wednesday I took the train up to London to attend an applicant day for English offer-holders at UCL. Naturally, I got the earliest train in order to fit in some London-mooching before heading over to Bloomsbury where the UCL day started at 2pm. Pulling up to Kings Cross at around 11am I decided to get the tube over to Oxford Circus in the hope the shops would be fairly quiet on a weekday morning. The huge Topshop was absolutely dead and I managed to pick up this dress with 20% off student discount. I feel a bit like a Mormon/ a character out of a Thomas Hardy novel but I love it nonetheless, even if the 3 separate ribbons which do up the back are, as my mum put it, 'boy-proof'.
These photos are from Friday night, when I drove to Cambridge to get cocktails and have a meal for one of my friends' 18th birthdays. The street is tucked behind the Cambridge Arts Theatre, opposite Jamie's Italian, and the bookshop in the photos always has bargain buckets outside with things like Penguin Classics on obscure philosophical topics for about a £1 a pop. The street was really quiet, housing only a few student flats, so was the perfect setting for an embarassing 10 minute photoshoot in which I squirmed 'what shall I do?' 'how do I pose' at least once every 20 seconds.

After the meal, following which we walked across the big green behind the main street through Cambridge city centre carrying 6 bottles of water, a bag of plastic cutlery, shopping bags, a Caterpillar cake and some cupcakes, we ended up in the car listening to Harry Styles in a Mcdonalds carpark (Is 'Sign of the Times' not completely divine??!!), realising that the cake was awful. By this point it was atleast 10pm and we were buying mozzarella sticks and Mcflurrys (after already having eaten burgers earlier in the evening. I know. I felt guilty too.) before driving home and feeling very teenager-y, ironically, in the month we all turned the ripe old age of 18. Everything I do at the moment seems to put me in this strange nostalgic mood. I think, although it's rather cliche, the ever-present awareness that this stage in my life is ending soon is changing my perception of things. I feel strange that the enclosed, narrow existence whereby I go to sixth form, see my friends, eat meals with my family etc is suddenly going to be replaced by a big city and living alone and studying one huge subject. I'm perpetually in this detached state of mind. Even going to sixth form, it all feels rather strange, like I'm not supposed to be there anymore, as if I've already outgrown the place. Most of my courses are finished and lessons are taken up by revision, but the cycle is ending and it no longer feels like I belong. I'm entering that 'denouement' stage of a play where nothing else can really be said - it just needs to be stuck out.

In other news, I am dying of A-Levels and I think it's catching. After having dropped History last year to leave me with English language, English literature and Philosophy & Ethics, I feel much better prepared in some respects (I'm fairly sure this time last year I was frantically trying to revise my entire History course), but like I'm drowning in other respects. There is so much to learn and so little time, and I am prone to procrastination despite being one of those people that would really very much like a couple of A*s. I'm also feeling like I am too dependent on my phone. When I really think about it - I frankly couldn't give a shit about Snapchat, and yes, whilst I do enjoy posting things on Instagram, the meaningless scrolling is not making me happy. The same goes for Twitter: yes I enjoy tweeting and seeing funny things or links to articles, but I do not need to check it every half an hour. In the long run, it doesn't add anything to my life: what am I truly gaining from watching a 20 minute haul on Youtube by a youtuber I claim to hate (cough Zoella cough). I'm purely doing. it to avoid the unavoidable stack of revision.

Anyway. After that rant, I'm going to completely undermine everything I've just said and link some cool things I've been watching/reading lately. Hope you are doing good and aren't imagining a 'cause of death: revision' style epitaph just yet.

See you soon! Imo

PS - General Election???!!!

 (probably shouldn't enjoy this and probably shouldn't enjoy the concept of the monarchy but I love Will and Kate)

Made in Chelsea Playlist

everything from 'part 4' of this playlist is so good. I used to love Klaxons and saw them a couple of years back. 'Shock Machine' is the solo project of their keyboardist James Righton - a bit electropop and completely to my self-confessed pop loving tastes. He was on Made in Chelsea performing last week and obviously I had to watch the entire episode whilst I was there. (May or may not have watched again the following week.)

The Durrells Series 2 Episode 1

I loved the last series of this show. It's so feel-good and very much as if an 'easy-read' book was made into a tv format and hence perfect Sunday night viewing.

Harry Styles Radio 1 Interview

Apologies. I have a strange obsession and I'm not sure where its come from because its an odd anomaly in my personality. I bloody love Harry Styles and this is hilarious. (I'm very excited for Harry Styles week on James Corden's late late show in May)