Monday, 18 December 2017

2017: Film Favourites

Admittedly I entered this year with a lot more hope for my cinematic-viewings than I'm ending 2017 with. I love film. I really love film. But more often than not, I struggle to find the time to hit the play button and get the screen rolling. Of course, as a first year undergraduate student, there is screen time, oh trust me, there is screen time. When I've done my work for the day and 11 PM rolls around and I can't sleep, Netflix is right there, as is my Amazon Student Prime subscription (which should probably be made the most of given there's only four months left on it. Anyway, I digress..); However, if it's that time of night and it's between a film on my "To-watch" list or yet another rewatch of Gilmore Girls, then the latter, my comfort watch, is probably going to be the winner. Despite all this though, I entered 2017 with the intention of broadening the genres of film I consume, and have come away from the bulk of this year having seen some incredible films, and I've finally watched the films that I'd been meaning to jump into for years. So without further ado, here are my favourite films of 2017. (Disclaimer: these haven't all been released in 2017, but were watched for the first time in this year).

Wonder Woman
Honestly, I am proud to say that it took me 18 years and six months to actually watch a superhero film. Maybe it's an awful thing to say, but it's true: this film made me feel empowered beyond belief. I've never seen anything quite like Wonder Woman and probably never will again. Within a week, I went back again with my friend Lottie to see it all over again, and it was still just as incredible as the first time around. Gal Gadot is fierce and brilliant as was everything about this film, right down to the cinematography and the music. This certainly took me by surprise, but I couldn't love it more if I tried. Watched in July

La La Land
I should stress: I hate musicals. I don't know why, but something about them just doesn't sit right with me, ironically a former long-term dancer. But La La Land did something to me that I'll never truly be able to explain. I don't know why it was or how it was, but La La Land spoke to me at a time when I needed to here about the struggling artist wanting to achieve their dreams, even if they knew those dreams were far fetched. It isn't a flawless film, and I do have my problems with it, but everything down to the exact note and semibreve was perfect and delightfully moving. You can probably rightly imagine that I spent months afterwards listening to the soundtrack on loop and learning the piano versions myself. Watched in January

Hidden Figures
Again, rather like Wonder Woman, I never expected to quite like this one anywhere near as much as I did, and now I'd very contently say that it's in my top five favourite films ever. Hidden Figures is (again, for lack of a better alternative word) empowering and glorious and whilst I may be dire when it comes to mathematics and physics and anything science-based, I like any other female can appreciate the genius that is within this story, and watch it again and again with intense admiration. (Also, Taraji P. Henson was astounding as Katherine Johnson and didn't get nearly enough praise for said role.) Watched in February

Stranger Than Fiction
Absurd and ridiculous, but utterly endearing. Leena of Just Kiss My Frog had recommended this god knows how long ago as a film worth watching for writers, as it grapples with a writer dealing with intense writer's block. It's an insane comedy but knows when it needs to be serious or romantic or hard-hitting, and packs all of those punches in exactly the right places. It is like I said totally bizzare, but simulataneously definitely worth a watch. Watched in August

Remember when I briefly joined the film society at University? Yeah... that was a brief, brief stint in which my friend and I watched one film and then realised it clashed with the Writer's Guild (which turned out to be hugely pivotal in how my life is now), so... priorities. I don't know if, had it not been a free screening at University, if I would've ever actively chosen to watch Birdman, but my god I love it. It's ambiguous and weird and crazy as hell, but the way this was crafted is something that I couldn't not love. If you've watched this, then you'll know I'm talking about that constantly travelling camera. So! Good! Watched in September

Dead Poets Society
Frankly I'm not 100% certain that I want to place Dead Poets Society on my list of favourites for 2017, because often there were moments where I felt strong dislike for this entire production. However, whilst I stand by that, let's consider this to be my honourary mention, as this was a film that I'd been wanting to watch for years, and even though it wasn't everything I expected and hoped for, the acting was outstanding and it certainly hit my feelings hard. Watched in November

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy
Above all else, this predominantely exists on this list for sentimental value, as these are the first films I watched with my boyfriend. I'm not entirely sure as to what happened in any of these films, because we spent the majority of each one talking, but from the general gist I got, these were fantastic... especially the final one in the trilogy. Though I may not totally understand yet what was going on, it was enough for me to go and buy my own copies of the trilogy to rewatch and learn, and enough that I'm genuinely invested enough to want to watch The Force Awakens and then, hopefully, The Last Jedi. All watched in November

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Currently I'm... #1: First Year, Semester 1 First Term

Current plan: Write one of these each term for the duration of university.

Listening to...
It sounds ridiculous, but the Made in Manchester playlist on Spotify has been played in the late hours of the evenings on loop since moving to university, especially in late October and throughout November, when the homesickness really started hitting me the hardest. It's weirdly comforting to hear the music of the place you call home, all in one playlist. Outside of this, I've continued listening to Alohomora! the MuggleNet Harry Potter re-read podcast as I walk between lectures and on train journeys, and for studying in the library, when not loving listening to the sounds of crackling, folding pages, I tend to turn to classical playlists to concentrate on my work. My personal favourite is Ludovico Einaudi's albums, but basically any classical playlist does the job.

Admittedly, the adjustment to my degree has hit me like a train. Since starting university, I haven't read anything that hasn't been part of a reading list, and whilst I love my degree, I really miss the freedom to read for pleasure as well as for academia. So far my dominant module has been Children's Fiction, but I've been attempting to get some non-degree reading done, such as recently starting The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, and I am to, hopefully over Christmas, read A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, the sequel to one of my favourite books, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.

Not anywhere near as much as I used to, but the old favourites still manage to sneak in here and there. I'm a lot busier than I was prior to university, and tend to avoid becoming the "Netflix in bed all day kind" of student, In spite of this, however, the late hours of the night are filled with rewatches of Gilmore Girls, my favourie TV show. I tend to watch whichever season is closest to my own personal life, and find solace in Rory's own chaos rather than my own, so as it currently stands I'm rewatching season four, when Rory starts at Yale University, on repeat. Beyond Gilmore Girls, my other Netflix favourites have been rewatching The Crown ahead of series two, and Medici: Masters of Florence. My amount of news consumption has dipped dramatically since starting university, as I live in this weird bubble where unless you actively search for news, you can go a week without hearing about anything in the outside world. I'm lucky enough to have a TV licence, and so watch BBC news constantly, if I'm not using the Guardian app. And finally, I have, at long last, watched Star Wars. Whilst the person I was watching it with and I talked through the majority of it and I generally don't entirely know what the hell went on, they're pretty bloody cool, and I'm glad to finally say I've seen the films.

As it currently stands, I'm taking a sort of unconventional route at university. Since October, I've chosen to come home every weekend, back to Manchester, which has been really rewarding in the long-run: I get a break from university life and the flat in student accommodation, and I get time to clear my head and refocus ahead of the following week. My life is divided into weeks being for university, university people, and friends I've made there, and my weekends are for family and for friends from home. Regardless of whatever other people do, I'm enjoying my system: I like not feeling trapped in one spot, and am so thankful that I chose a university that is relatively near home, even if in Wales, and I have the freedom to come home if and when I need/want to. As well, frankly, as an insomniac, though I don't get a lot of it, I don't think I've ever enjoyed sleep as much as I do now when I'm constantly exhausted. Sleep is a gift from the gods.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Letters to Winter: 2017

Dear Winter,
It's 1 AM, and less than 24 hours until December. The dregs of November are leaving now, and I can hear you calling to me from the near future. I'm not normally this late at writing or working or anything that involves deadlines. I am meticulous and a planner and the Hermione Granger of thinking ahead. Yet here I am: forcing myself to write in the dead of night because for once, I've let my scheduling guard down. That's how things have been recently: some of the writings I had been working on until Autumn hit have come to a hiatus, but so many have commenced too, with extra calibre, because I finally, finally started university. Not only that but after all the anxiety and fear and... everything that was wracking my brain last time we spoke, I got to where I wanted to be. I did it.

On Tuesday afternoon I was sat with... for the sake of privacy let's say... "somebody", in my bedroom at University. We were sat watching a film and the light was gradually dimming, and I don't know where we'd come from to get to this point, but I just turned my head and went "Oh god, it's December on Friday." to which I gained an equally unenthused response from them. I think this is the first time in my life when I've truly felt the pressure of time when November is coming to a close, December is hitting, and with it you, Winter. How I've perceived time since starting my undergraduate degree has changed drastically. Most of the time it feels frozen, and I have to carve with a pickaxe into it in order to feel like I've achieved anything, even the food shopping. Sometimes, just... occasionally, it feels like time is melting. Those moments when it feels like time is melting are beautiful; when everything feels like it has fallen into place and you want the moment to pause but you know the blood of the clocks will simply run faster for the fact that you are enjoying yourself. This year has been manic... and I have done so much, but in terms of life changes, Autumn has been the greatest shock to the system.

Winter, you know I've been through the mill a bit. "A bit" is a wild underestimation, but Autumn has been the most tumultuous, unpredictable, and yet catastrophically thrilling time of my life. I worked so hard to get to this point, and this time last year, as I wrote, I was desperately craving an offer, nevermind even a place at my university. And yet a lot of the time, due to my mental state, I'm not happy. I've had days where a lobotomy would be welcomed, days where I want to just feel nothing, and I have had weeks where I haven't wanted to move... and that's... concerning, and I'm working on it. But nevertheless, it isn't half frustrating when you achieve a huge dream, a huge life goal, and then things aren't quite what they seem. Like I said, I'm working on it, but I need to focus right now on the incredible things that are going on. I have made friends, and I have something that is also, shall we say... more than that, too. I'm living independently but valuing the time I spend with my family at the weekends more than ever, and I'm having amazing new experiences. I got my dream, I got exactly what I wanted, and although things aren't perfect, some phenomenal things are occurring in my life right now that light it up more than words could possibly explain, I just need time to work some things out.

December is going to be huge. You, Winter, are going to be huge. By the time Spring arrives, I'll be 19, and soon enough 20. A year ago in my last letter, I said I was ready for adulthood. I still stand by that, but what I've learnt is that are we ever really ready? My goal was feeling that I had it all together: I got the job at MuggleNet permanently, I got into my dream university, I have met some incredible people and have my wonderful friends and family, but there are still and always will be cracks. There is no such thing as having it together, I realised a week ago when at the end of a truly horrific day, I lugged myself to the Morrisons at the end of the road, bought a pizza and ice cream, realising that I had nothing that I felt in the mood to cook, and sat feeling the most isolated I've felt since I got to university. I messaged my friends and one very wisely said "adulting isn't having it together. Nobody has got it together. Adulting is conquering one crisis at a time and trying to make the best out of what is going on." That is what I need to do, and that is what I'm aiming to do in your hours this time around, Winter. If I am low, I am low. If I'm happy, then that's a major success. I'm working on it. I will conquer this, it's just going to be a long and difficult journey.

I'm working on it. For now, I shall inhale the scent of Christmas and hope for a little snow.