Thursday, April 23, 2020
38 Days Later

38 Days Later

Spring blossoms on a daily walk!

38 is the number of days I've been at home now 'self-isolating'/on lockdown/quarantining - whatever you want to call it or 'confinement' as the French say. Also well done if you got the play on words! If you didn't, 28 Days Later is a post-apocalyptic horror film by Danny Boyle featuring the gooorge Cillian Murphy who wakes up in a hospital and goes outside to discover London is completely deserted -  I highly recommend.

My version, 38 Days Later, involves 0 actual zombies but the state of the supermarkets in the first couple of weeks wasn't far off looking like a set from the film though. Currently, outside my window cars are still driving by, people are out enjoying the sun, on their own though, I should add. However, normality feels like it could be in the hopefully not so distant future?

I've kept up the same attitude since my last post, enjoying the little things and mostly avoiding the news only when necessary. I tuned in for the most recent speech from Emmanuel Macron who then announced a further lockdown till the 11th of May. It's funny how I'd been going days without thinking about the news and the severity of the illness, and one speech put my mind in a negative space. The reality of what's going on hit me all over again like it was news I was hearing for the first time. Selfishly, I also noticed my 25th birthday will be spent at home.

To be honest, I didn't have plans yet but they most likely wouldn't have involved staying indoors but here we are! I like being home anyway and if staying in saves lives then I'm happy to do that. There'll be cake and I've booked time off work so it's shaping up alright for a 25th birthday.

Work has been keeping me busy. I've been researching new music and interviewing an Italian artist who's stuck in America for her quarantine. I find it fascinating how everyone's experience with this will be so unique. You can read the interview (in French) here if you like. It reminded me of how nice it was to talk to a stranger and share stories. It made me realize one of the things I've loved the most about my job is talking to people and asking questions (I like to do this in general so as a job it feels like a bonus).

Other things I've done include: painting my nails, cutting my own hair (it happened), watching documentaries, going for walks, playing my Nintendo, reading my book, making several quiches (some good, some epic failures) doing a 'Houseparty' app call with my cousins and doing two easter egg hunts in my flat and proceeding quickly to eat all of the chocolate. I've vacuumed several times and it actually helps calm my mind a lot so there's an obvious wellness tip for you if you ever needed one.

I've also got very into meditation, to the point where, if I'm feeling rubbish, my first thought now is 'I need to meditate'. If you'd told me a year ago, that meditation would be so beneficial if I just gave it a go, I would have made an excuse or said I'll just 'get round to it'. I've finally started making the effort and I couldn't imagine going without it.

38 days later and the start of all of this feels like a lifetime ago. I'm slightly apprehensive about when life goes 'back to normal' - how will it feel to be in a crowd again? On a crowded commute? I think in a weird way, there will be parts I miss about being at home. I especially like not having any FOMO (fear of missing out), but I realise that's on me, and not on others. I'm learning to enjoy going by my own schedule and timetable, and if being at home suits me more than going out, or if I simply can't then I'm learning to be at peace with that. I sometimes like working from home, having everything I need around me, and the ability to roll out of bed! It's great that once I 'clock off', I'm already home.

I like that I'm now making time to do things I would make excuses for before. I'm excited again to learn, to be creative, and to cook! Can you believe that I chopped a ton of veg and made my first ever homemade soup of... my life?!

I'm not sure who I'm writing this for exactly, or who will enjoy it, but mostly I'm writing this for my future self. When I'm an oldie, and hopefully still know how to find this part of the internet, I can look back at this and show it to family and say "This is what happened when I was in my 20's!". 
Friday, April 10, 2020
The Film Club #11

The Film Club #11

Well, it's not like any of us are getting out to a cinema any time soon. Most of the films I was looking forward to seeing this year (The French Dispatch, No Time to Die, Tenet...) have all been postponed so I guess we'll just have to make do with the wonderful films that are already available.

Whilst stuck at home post-wisdom teeth op, I caught up on some films in my spare time. Here are some films I recommend...

Parasite (2019) by Bong Joon-ho

Ok ok, this is obvious and barely necessary of a mention. Everyone has heard about Parasite by now, right? On the off chance you haven't heard of it, it's bloody brilliant and that's all you need to know. I rented it on Google Play after seeing a bazillion tweets/article headers about the movie and eventually caved, I couldn't wait any longer! I read no reviews so nothing was spoiled beforehand. I was truly gripped from the first frame and felt like I was constantly being revealed surprises throughout, whilst the characters couldn't quite believe what was unfolding in front of them, neither could I. On very basic terms, it's a social satirical masterpiece about class and greed, where a poor family cons their away into and quickly infests, like a parasite, the lives of a very rich family. I recommend these articles (1, 2, 3) and this video about the film (to consume after viewing to avoid spoilers!). Parasite marked a pivotal moment in cinematic history as it was the first EVER non-English language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture in history. A must-see!

1917 (2019) by Sam Mendes

I mainly wanted to go and see this because I knew Roger Deakins was the cinematographer behind it all and that it was shot in one take - or made to look like it as much as possible anyway. What's also really great about this movie is that it was co-written by a woman, Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Director, Sam Mendes wanted to honor his grandfather, Alfred Mendes, in 1917, who was a native of Trinidad and a messenger for the British on the Western Front. Mendes said that "it's important to remember they were fighting for a free and unified Europe and it's good to be reminded of that now". 1917 felt particularly unique amongst other war movies, mostly thanks to the way it was filmed - as you follow the two lead characters on their journey from the very first scene to the last. The camera felt very up close and really there was no way of escaping what was going on in front of you. An intense and captivating perspective of the first world war.

Midsommar (2019) by Ari Aster

Something very different here, but equally as intense as 1917. I can't say I really enjoyed Midsommar, maybe the better word is endured. Though beautifully shot, interesting and with brilliant acting from lead Florence Pugh, it just left me feeling a little uneasy. It's a horror film but set in broad daylight which makes it all the more eery. No jump scares, darkness or ghosts here but a very different kind of horror film. A young couple embarks on a 'trip' to a midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village. It all starts off as a nice, carefree summer holiday and looks pretty idyllic, however it takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite the guests to take part in certain festivities. Think The Wicker Man but even more confusing.

The Lighthouse (2019) by Robert Eggers

Cabin fever might be beginning to feel a little too familiar for us all, right? Maybe save this one for when you're out of isolation, so you don't feel more claustrophobic. Two lighthouse keepers, played by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, are stuck out on a remote and mysterious island in New England in the 1890s. They both struggle to maintain their sanity as they are confined together day in and day out on this island. For four weeks, the men face back-breaking work in miserable conditions with no one else for company but each other. They must endure one another's odd quirks and behaviors, resentment and hatred. In the unfortunate weather conditions, the two are forced to spend more time in hunger, agony and manic isolation with nothing but booze and telling old tales to keep them entertained. Visually this movie is a gorgeous, gothic horror sensation all shot in black and white, adding to the soulless atmosphere on the island with mad but brilliant performances from both actors.

The Farewell (2019) by Lulu Wang

It's not uncommon in Chinese culture, for example, to keep a loved one in the dark about an illness, like in The Farewell. The film tells the story of a Chinese family, who discover that their Grandmother has only a short while left to live. In order to get all the family together for one last time, they decide to schedule an impromptu wedding for a reunion. We meet Billi, a Chinese American, who quickly gets on the next flight from her home in New York back to her home country of China when she learns the news. However, she struggles to fit in with her family again and is against her family's decision to hide the truth from her grandmother. I really loved this film and thought it was a beautiful story about messy and loving big families, cultures and what home means.

The Irishman (2019) by Martin Scorsese

Lastly, The Irishman! How lucky are we to have a director well into his seventies still making movies like this, and at such a length too. This movie is a crazy 3 hours and 30 minutes long but I'll be honest I didn't feel like I'd been watching it that long. I've watched shorter movies that felt longer but this one keeps you entertained with no need to check the time. In short, it's set in the 1950s where we meet truck driver, Frank Sheeran (played by longtime Scorsese companion, Robert De Niro). He quickly gets involved with the Pennysylvania crime family and then goes on to work for Jimmy Hoffa, an American labor union leader and president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and is largely tied to organized crime. These are exactly the kind of stories Scorsese does best but Casino is still up there as my all time favourite of them all, soz. What I did find interesting though was the use of special effects to make certain actors look younger - you can find out more about this in the 20/30 minute follow up episode 'In Conversation' featuring the director and lead actors from the movie on Netflix. It's amazing what we can do with technology in film, but for me it felt out of place. Nevertheless, it was as expected flawlessly performed, with amazing costume design (another interesting video here) with a great soundtrack too.

What movies have you been loving lately?

Tuesday, April 07, 2020
Mistress America & The Importance of Ageless Friendships

Mistress America & The Importance of Ageless Friendships

So a couple of months back I watched Noah Baumbach's Mistress America and it got me thinking about having friendships with people out of our age range. 

First of all, let me tell you briefly what Mistress America is about in a nutshell. Meet Tracy and Brooke. Out of the blue, a sort of miracle happens. Tracy's divorced mother is getting remarried and tells Tracy to get in touch with her fiance's daughter, Brooke. However, they're kind of like chalk and cheese. 

Tracy is a fresher college student, about 18 years old, yet to experience 'real' life. She's adjusting to college life, feeling lonely, depressed, and is quite quiet and reserved.

Brooke is completely different. In her 30's. Fun, ambitious, loud, open, no filter. She's like Tracy's wiser, older, cooler sister, full of confidence, at least on the outside. 

The two meet and Brooke is like the confidante Tracy always needed. Brooke brings out the fun side of life, provides a source of wisdom to Tracy to guide her through the crippling anxieties of starting college. Brooke essentially becomes a shoulder to lean on for Tracy and vise versa.

I actually remember reading something about this a while ago on the blog Ropes of Holland where the writer discussed cross-generation relationships and how relationships with the older generations, or younger can benefit both parties. Not only is it good for your mental health and wellbeing, but it is also said that “The more contact young people have with older adults, the less anxious they are about their own aging, and the less ageist they are” Allan & Johnson, 2009; Allan et al., 2014.  

It's a very interesting subject and got me thinking of all the times in my life I've appreciated the company of someone older than me. I used to get along with all of my grandparents, who I lost all pretty early on in my life. I liked their wisdom, their stories and their outlook on life. They had a lot to tell me. They were the comforting, wiser figure in my life and I provided them with a reminder of youth and discovery. As I was learning and making mistakes, they could help me learn from their own experiences. It's the same with my parents, aunts, uncles and so on. 

A lot like Tracy and Brooke, these relationships brought, and still bring, a lot of comfort for me. Relationships with someone older or younger can give alternative perspectives on life. 

I find it hard to believe that ageism is actually a thing, that some people don't want to talk to or be around older people. I just find it so bizarre because when I see someone older, I see all the years more they've lived than me and all the stories that they have to tell and I find it hard to see the age, or a reason to discriminate. I might even go as far as saying, sometimes in the past, I've probably gotten on better with people older than me. Maybe I'm just an old soul! (heheh)

An older person has more experience, years ahead of you which adds to the excitement and the mystery. They know a bit more than you, but you also can tell them about what's going on in your generation too. You can contrast and compare experiences.

Towards the end of the Mistress America, the two eventually find out that they won't be becoming stepsisters after all. So where does that leave them after all of this? Strangers? 

What it made me realise was that, without both their parents initially planning to get married, they were unlikely to have crossed paths, or made the effort to form a friendship. The film eventually ends in an argument, Brooke saying that Tracy was like a 'leech' in her life and latched on as soon as she could, to which Tracy responds that Brooke loved giving the advice. 

In a way Tracy did latch on, as someone, an only child, who was feeling lonely in a big city would do when she is offered the chance of a potential stepsister. Brooke did enjoy giving advice to Tracy. It gave her back a sense of purpose and structure in her chaotic life. It made her feel more in control of her somewhat out-of-control 30's. Either consciously or subconsciously, each woman was exactly what the other needed. Whilst Tracy was experiencing anxieties of youth and entering the adult world, Brooke was equally going through the anxieties of middle age. In some ways, Brooke was a projection of Tracy's future self, or what she hoped to be. Though they didn't become stepsisters, the relationship came together for a reason.

Everyone out there has the potential to inspire or shape your life, whatever their age. Some of the most vulnerable people throughout the lockdown across the world right now may be older people, who may experience isolation on a regular basis. Like in Mistress America, Tracy and Brooke find that they aren't really that different despite the age gap. What can be learned is that ageless friendships are important to remind the elder of their youth, and the youth of aging all while eliminating the anxiety of becoming an adult, and the anxieties of being one.