Everyone has a Thing

When I was growing up, I never understood how people could like football so much (for my American readers, I am referring to ‘soccer’ here). I grew up in northern England where football is basically a religion. The stadium is at the center of the city. Every other weekend the locals come out in their masses and eagerly walk the streets to watch the game. The outcome of the games genuinely affects the moral of the people. If the team wins, everyone is in a good mood for the week. If they lose, everyone mopes around analysing how this was possible. Either way, conversations are normally dominated by the previous or forthcoming football game.

I have friends that know literally everything about football. They spend their weekends watching multiple games a day. They invest a great deal of time to finding out the most esoteric facts and figures. Their forté is pub trivia nights when they suddenly become a walking encyclopaedia of sports knowledge. They know things like who scored England’s goal in the loss to Argentina in the World Cup in 1986 or which Sheffield Utd player received a red card before touching the ball in January 2007 (I googled them questions by the way).

I never understood this mentality as a kid. Why do people need to know all of this pointless information that serves no purpose? How can masses of people cheer and shout at their screens over a game they have no control over? Why is their mood controlled by an outcome of a game when they aren’t the ones kicking the ball?

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As you may have guessed, I was more of a bookish kid. I found the people who intently followed sports foolish and I would deliberately eschew from cheering for sports teams. If I was good friends with Freud and we were having afternoon tea, I image he would deduce that I held these negative feelings because of a detachment and rejection I felt from my family and friends growing up. Or lets face it, he’d also probably say that I secretly wanted to kill my father and sleep with my mother.

As I grew older these opinions slowly dissipated. Nowadays I have gotten over my complex of shunning sports and can enjoy watching the odd game. Although I am still indifferent to results and still feel like an outsider at times.

I realised I was/am no different to sports fans. When I was in my teens I spent years of my life finding out every piece of information and trivia about my favourite movies. I spent ludicrous amounts of money going to concerts. Lately I am constantly going crazy and screaming at the TV when a fictional character I like on The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones dies. Why is this any different to going crazy over sports?

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My emotions are being controlled over fictional characters on a screen. I have no control over the outcome of movies and books yet I still invest my energy and time into them. I realised I shouldn’t be judging other people for liking things I didn’t understand (wow, what an epiphany! I realised something that I should have known in the first place. Someone give me a pat on the back or round of applause?)

There is no difference between knowing who scored the winning goal in the 1978 world cup final to knowing what happened in Spiderman comic No.19, or how fast the Starship Enterprise goes. One is no ‘geekier’ than the other. However, I grew up in a place where the latter was considered a more geeky thing to know and often felt ostracised for being different. But why? You’re using the same part of your brain. Fulfilling the same need. You are just directing the same amount of enthusiasm towards a different thing.

I remember watching the England vs Italy game in the World Cup this year at a pub in my hometown. The pub was packed full of die hard England fans. Inspite of my apathy to the game, it was a very fulfilling experience being a part of a community of people who felt happy and sad (and lets face it, mainly angry when watching England play) together as one unit.

I remember when England scored their first goal to draw 1- 1 (they would eventually lose but no one in the pub knew that at this point) and the whole place erupted in elated noise. Everyone, myself included, started jumping and hugging each other. There was a synchronicity in our actions and thoughts that removed me from myself.

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At this moment I realised the importance of sport in peoples lives. People want to feel a connection to something bigger than themselves. These social codes and rituals can be used to create an identity that transcends the individual. For everyone in that bar, those brief moments of watching mega rich people kicking a small ball around on some grass connected us. We weren’t alone. At that moment in time it didn’t matter who I was. It didn’t matter what my name was, where I was from, or what my job was. In that moment my thoughts became secondary.

Everyone has a thing that offers them a similar feeling of transcendence. Whether it is through sports, movies, religion, or stamp collecting. Nobodies thing is more or less valid than anybody else’s thing.

A Teenage Conversation with Society

This short scene takes place in the bedroom of a nameless teenager. In the bedroom there is a single bed and a mirrored sliding wardrobe that extends the length of the wall. On the other three walls there is a flat screen TV and two posters, a Pulp Fiction one and long framed poster of the New York skyline. The teenager, a gangly 17 year old Sixth Form student, is sitting on his bed reading his first Nietzsche essay as The Smiths plays in the background. 

The time is around 10:30pm. Suddenly we hear a noise. The teenager sits up and looks at the window as a dark figure climbs through. The intruder is society. He wears a black cloak and black gloves. The hood covers his head but not his face, which looks middle-aged and almost an older version of the teenager. The teenager is not startled by the cloaked man, as he has had frequent visits from him in the past. Although lately he has been visiting more and more often. He begins as always:

SOCIETY: Hey kid, so I have some good news and bad news for you. The bad news is your childhood is officially over. That carefree lifestyle you didn’t appreciate? Yeah that’s gone now. There will be no more soaking up free education, sponging of your parents, and generally just taking from me. But the good news is it is time to get a job!

TEENAGER: Those both sound like bad news to me. Can’t I enjoy life for a bit?

SOCIETY: Nope! Here is an infinite list of careers available to you – pick one and do this for the rest of your life.

TEENAGER: Only one? That seems a bit unfair. What if I don’t know what I want at this point in time? What if I want to do more than one thing on the list? What if the thing I want now isn’t what I want in the future? Can you really trust a teenager who hasn’t had any work or life experience to make such a big decision?

SOCIETY: Stop thinking so much. Just choose a career. Work your way up the career ladder. Earn lots of money. Focus on material objects and satisfy your primal urges.

TEENAGER: But isn’t life too short to concentrate on all that stuff? Isn’t life for living? After all we are only alive for the merest moments on this earth, shouldn’t our main priority be experiencing everything we possibly can instead of spending our lives at a mundane job that doesn’t stimulate us or help us grow?

SOCIETY: Nonsense! Don’t worry about all that stuff.

TEENAGER: Okay then, if you say so. What should I do?

SOCIETY: Anything you want!

TEENAGER: Okay, well, I like movies. I’ve always wanted to be a movie director!

SOCIETY: Don’t be silly. It is very unlikely you would suceed at this.

TEENAGER: How about helping people? I’ve heard focusing on altruism is very rewarding and important.

SOCIETY: No. There’s no money in that.

TEENAGER: Aw. How about art? I love painting and I am really good at it. I could to be an artist!

SOCIETY: That’s not a real job. There is too much social stigma attached to the arts. You need a real job!

TEENAGER: I’m confused. What’s a “real job”?

SOCIETY: A stable 9-5 job that earns lots of money.

TEENAGER: But I don’t really care about money.

SOCIETY: You need to care. If you earn lots of money you can save up all that money and put it towards a retirement plan. Then you can use all them savings when you retire to relax and do whatever you want!

TEENAGER: But why do I have to wait till I retire to do what I want? Can’t I just do that now?

SOCIETY: No that’s not how things work.

TEENAGER: Well why not? Can’t we just change the system so things are more focused on enjoying life?

SOCIETY: Don’t be so foolish. Just go to university and pay them thousands of pounds and they will condition you into thinking this is the route you’re supposed to take. Everyone is doing it, everyone can’t be wrong. You will soon conform and forget. Then you’ll be happy. Just trust me.

TEENAGER: Okay, I’ll trust you. Don’t let me down.

Thoughts on National Identity

As a Brit that has spent some years living and working in the States, the one thing that always strikes me about America is how unapologetically patriotic the people are. I saw the national flag every single day I was in America. I worked at summer camps where the pledge of allegiance was recited every morning. I’d go to sporting events where stadiums would erupt into the Star-Spangled banner.

Don’t get me wrong, America is a darn good country to live in and I love it dearly. Nevertheless I never fail to cringe a little when I hear certain American people (mainly in the media and crazy commenters on YouTube) openly proclaim that their country is the best country in the entire world. Firstly, I don’t believe any country can objectively claim to be the best country in the world. And secondly, if there was a best country, I’d like to hope the residents of it would be more humble about how brilliant they are.

I find this type of patriotism can often become blurred with arrogance. Obviously this is not unique to America. The UK is just as bad in terms of arrogance. I am merely using the US as an example as it is the place I have spent the most time in as a foreigner.

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I have had countless interactions with Americans who boast about ‘beating the British in the revolution’ or ‘saving our ass in World War II’. This is normally said in good humour (or ‘humor’ in this case) and these conversations normally end in laughs and playful mocking. However, in many cases, there is always a part of them that earnestly believes what they are saying. This is something I have never understood.

Predisposed beliefs and ideologies shouldn’t solely define you as a person/or society. Most of us had nothing to do with the construction of our countries and it just seems rather egotistical to take credit for other peoples achievements who happen to have the same nationality. I am British, but I was not responsible for the Industrial Revolution, discovering penicillin, The Beatles, or any other thing that other “British People” did. I was just born on the same bit of land, have a passport from there and speak the same language. The comparisons end there.

Also, if you want to boast and take credit for other peoples past achievements, then you also need to own up to the horrible things people in your country have done. Slavery, mass inequality, capital punishment etc. I’m sure the terrible list is a lot longer than the positives list. You can’t pick and choose.

Nationalism has its place and is great for helping people find their sense of belonging. People need to connect and identify themselves to ideas and causes that makes them feel apart of something bigger. However it becomes a real problem when these ideas stand in the way of positive change. Traditions and customs are just concepts somebody at sometime in the past made up. They are not set in stone and can be altered if they are no longer a good thing.

I am very lucky to have been born into first-world conditions. But that is all it is, complete luck. I am British purely because my ancestors ended up there, it’s not something I’ve achieved or worked at. I am the product of prior causes which I didn’t choose and had absolutely no hand in creating. I never choose to be born where I was. Just like you never choose to be where you’re from. Being British isn’t part of human DNA. No baby has ever popped out of the womb gagging for a cup of tea saying ‘God save the queen!’. Nationality is something we learn and is a very subjective construction.

Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell said about his experience viewing the Earth from the moon:

“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.'”

Astronaut Frank Borman similarly said:

“When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.”

I feel these quotes beautifully complement what I was trying to articulate. I find it interesting that among the small number of people who have seen our planet from space, how common this sense of enlightenment is. We are all one family, and when you look at the earth from such a distance, it becomes very clear.

Recently I prefer to consider myself a global citizen. I believe one’s identity should transcend geography or political borders and that you shouldn’t be defined by the arbitrary bit of land you were born in. I know this sounds rather ‘New Agey’, but I think people need to start thinking of themselves as ‘Human’ before ‘British’, ‘French’, ‘American’, etc. Only by supporting the development of global citizens, can we foster a more peaceful, sustainable and prosperous world for everyone.

I would love to hear your thoughts and whether you agree or disagree.

My Travel T-Shirt

When I fly I love wearing the same old t-shirt that I have had for a while. It is really soft, well worn and slightly baggy. The t-shirt features a drawing of Walter White in his Heisenberg persona from the show Breaking Bad. For whoever hasn’t seen the show (you fools!), it is about the gradual transformation of a mild-mannered high school teacher into a criminal mastermind and drug lord. Now go watch it!

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So on this particular day I wore this shirt as I was traveling back to England from a short break to Amsterdam. It was around 7.30 in the morning so I was a little bit grumpy. I walked through that huge metal machine that is bathing everyone in strange radiation rays and slowly killing us all. The metal alarm goes off. For some reason the alarm always goes off for me. Cue full body invasive pat-down. On a side note, has anyone in the history of airport pat-downs ever found anything? I feel you’d have to be a pretty rookie criminal to try and sneak anything nefarious onto a plane in your jean pockets.

So as I was getting the post death-machine pat-down a security woman in my periphery called over to where I was standing and shouted:

Make sure you check him. He may be carrying crystal meth!

It was early. I was disgruntled. I had forgotten that I was wearing the Heisenberg t-shirt so I had no idea was she was talking about! The mention of drugs made my heart rate immediately speed up. The blood rushed from my face. I have never touched drugs but in that moment I suddenly became convinced I had a secret addiction and that I was surreptitiously smuggling crystal meth through Amsterdam airport security. I would be blacklisted from flying and would have to spend the rest of my days in Dutch prisons. As I am lacking on the brawn front I knew I’d probably have to make acquaintances with the biggest inmate, probably called ‘Bubba’, and I’d teach him how to read in exchange for protection.

In my inner state of panic I turned and looked at the security woman who just smiled, pointed at my t-shirt and said “Cool shirt”.

How could she do that to me?! If I am not allowed to joke about drugs at the airport then surely security aren’t allowed either. We need some sort of mutual agreement here.

I now wear a blank shirt whenever I fly.

Why I Avoid Movie Trailers

Am I the only person who actively avoids movie trailers?

Between talk shows, leaked production photos, and endless social media advertising, it is getting increasingly difficult to see a new movie these days without already knowing virtually everything about it. One of the biggest issues for me are movie trailers that, intent on making sure you know exactly what you’re paying for, give the entire film away. As a viewer it often feels very patronising, like the production company is spoon feeding you the plot.

Even when I am looking forward to a movie, in fact especially when I am looking forward to a movie, I will do whatever I can to avoid seeing its trailer. If I know I am going to see a movie, I don’t want to encounter anything that will spoil it for me. If I accidentally stumble into a room where it is playing I will shut my eyes, cover my ears, and sing at the top of my voice. I normally take on a rendition of the ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen. Damn that song is catchy.

Obviously I realise trailers are an important aspect of getting people into the cinema in the first place. But recently I feel trailers have developed a trend of becoming more like highlight reels that invariably spoil all the best jokes and all the best scenes before the movie is even released. A trailer should make you want to see a movie, not feel like you’ve already watched the entire thing. Even though these scenes are normally out of context I’ve had many experiences of watching a movie where the memory of the trailer resurfaces and takes me out of the moment, thus ruining the scene.

I went to see the new Hunger Games the other day (it was pretty meh. If The Hunger Games people are reading this, feel free to use that review on your next poster) and I sat through the pre-movie trailers. Honestly, I felt like I sat through the entirety of six movies in the space of 20 minutes (they were all pretty meh too. Seriously, step up your game Hollywood and stop making the same old drivel). I think I’d rather just watch a single scene on its own to get a sense of what the film is like, rather that snippets from the entire movie.

Teaser trailers are the best. The teaser trailer for the new Star Wars came out this week. It was great! It shows some cool backdrops, great effects and alluring characters. It alludes to all sorts of otherworldly phenomenon without actually explicating its central premise. Not that Star Wars even needs a trailer. Everyone and their mother is going to see this movie, there is no need spending millions advertising it. If you aren’t one of the 50 billion people who have watched it, here it is:

An Englishman’s Thanksgiving

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving. As an Englishman the concept of celebrating Thanksgiving is new to me.

This was my second Thanksgiving in America so I was very excited about it. My first was in 2011, I had recently moved to America and a friend of mine invited me to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with her family. I excitedly accepted the offer.

It was a curious experience for me. My friend lived in this beautiful suburban home with a well-kept lawn and neatly trimmed hedges. The rest of the estate was lined with rows of houses with a similar dollhouse design. I was nervous about spending a holiday with a family I had never met but they were wonderfully accommodating and cordial throughout the week. It was like I stepped into every single American movie I have ever seen. The mother spent the day cooking pumpkin pies in the kitchen. The father came home and actually said the words ‘Honey, I’m home!’. Upon the fathers arrival, the giddy golden retriever preceded to jump on him and lick his face. The two daughters (one a high-school cheerleader and the other a bookish college girl) just laughed and shook their heads at the mischievous dog. And the jock son sat on the couch watching American football. It was like I stepped into a cliche – and I loved it! I’ve since spent a lot of time in the United States but this experience was the first time I really understood how magical and alluring American life can be. I felt very warm and safe.

Three years later, and the novelty of America has worn off slightly (although I still feel like I am constantly walking around a movie set). This year I spent Thanksgiving in Atlanta with some loved ones. We laughed a lot. We ate a lot. We drank a lot. I think Thanksgiving is my favourite American holiday. Mainly because it is one of the only American holidays that is largely unsullied by commercialisation. No pressure to buy presents, no decorations, and no cards. Just a day of year that revolves around eating food till you pass out with your nearest and dearest. What is not to like?

I think it would serve well in British culture. Speaking as a Brit, it is very difficult for us to reflect on life and get emotional as easy as our American cousins do. And whenever we do it is often masked behind irony and humour. I think having a formal, official day of the year where everyone agrees it is okay to be openly and sincerely thankful would do us good as a nation. However most British people I know would be thankful never to be put in any situation where emotions are involved. Maybe one day.

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving last week!

A photo taken just before Thanksgiving on a lovely fall hike in North Georgia.

The Kindness of Strangers

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OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet

Like many people, I get a kick out of traveling. I love experiencing myself in an entirely new context. In a new world, surrounded by unfamiliar people and customs, I always discover unknown strengths and often hidden prejudices lying in my subconscious. Both equally important in character development. The thing I get the most buzz from is discovering the differences and similarities between people living so far apart in various pockets of the world.

During the summer of 2014, I spent a month living and working in a small village in Bali, Indonesia. Having spent the majority of my life living in England it was a huge change for me. I stayed in a small village in Denpasar – the capital and most populous city in Bali. I found it a very nurturing village where everyone seemed intrinsically connected and filled with humility. I witnessed people sharing whatever food they had available and helping passers by whenever they could. There was no street lights in this village so people would leave there outside light in their home overnight so people could visibly walk the streets during the darkened hours.  It was a very community orientated place.

My temporary neighbours didn’t appear to have a great deal of wealth and lived minimalistic yet happy lives. To be honest, this was one was one of the main reasons I decided to go to Indonesia in the first place. I wanted a piece of the action.

I was clearly entering this village as an outsider. As a 6 foot 3 inches pasty Englishman with a body of stick insect, I stuck out like a sore thumb in Indonesia. However despite my obvious foreign status, I was never met with anything but warmth from the people I interacted with. I’d walk alone at night and bikes would stop to ask if I was okay and where I was going, etc. I became a novelty, no one had ever seen anyone so tall! Children would stop and stare wide-eyed at the giant white man. People would follow me down the street everyday asking me questions as I walked to my local hole-in-the-wall for dinner and would wait outside till I finished. I am not going to lie, I rather enjoyed the unwarranted local attention. I like to imagine folk tales were written about me when I left about the mythical time the giant stick creature frequented the village with the ability to reflect the sun and had a laughable weakness for spicy food. It will be past down from generation to generation and songs will be sung. A man can dream.

During my time in Indonesia I decided to rent a moped to explore the island. One night during my first week there, I was practicing on the bike in the back streets, precariously circling some rice fields around where I lived. It was around 11pm and this old man came out of this home and stopped me. Probably just in time as I hadn’t yet mastered the brakes and was getting slightly too close to comfort to the rice paddies.

I was preparing myself for some vitriolic comments about how awful I was at driving a bike, or how loud I was being, or why I was practicing so late next to his home. But no, he started asking me questions about where I was from and what I was doing!

He had a perfectly round hairless face. He looked like a winkled ping-pong ball with an amiable smile. He invited me into his home and before I could give my cued up British response of politely declining, he had already ushered my bike into in garage and started escorting me through his door.

Now, whenever I get to this point in the story with my friends and family I normally get a reaction that goes something like this: ‘You went into a strangers home?! In a foreign country?! What were you thinking?!’ I realise this is a natural and rational response as the old guy could have been anyone! Although at the time it didn’t feel like an unnerving situation, I still approached the invitation into his home with some trepidation. However that soon dissipated at he started introducing me to his elated looking family.

He didn’t have the best English speaking skills, but he was certainly putting to use the phrases he did know. “Here is my home! Look at my wife! Wave to my child! Play with my dog!” he said completely free from irony. “Have some tea!”

“No thank you, I’m not thirsty”

*Hands me some tea*

“Have some food!”

“No thank you, I’ve just ate”

*Hands me some rice*

I kindly accepted the offerings but I really didn’t want them.

I had only been in Bali a few days so the only Balinese phrases I had picked up at this point were “No spice please!”, “Why did you put spice on?!” and “Where is the toilet?” (all equally useful phrases if you ever travel to Indonesia). So we communicated in pidgin English and convivial sign language for about 10 minutes as I patted his dog and waved to his child.

Once I had gone through all the universal gestures for ‘yummy’ and said my thank-yous, I got on my bike and wobbled away. And that was it! It was a brief but pleasant interaction with a stranger. There was no hidden intentions or malice behind his deed. I will forever remember that old man for his generous hospitality and his horrible looking tea.

The point of the story is this – it is very difficult to imagine anything like this happening in the Western world. England is currently doing it’s best to kick out as many foreign people as possible never mind inviting them in for some tea and introducing them to the wife and kids at 11 o’clock at night.

There has been research to suggest that the Western mind differs from the Eastern mind and is more oriented towards the self, rather than humanity. Which is something I noticed a lot during my month in Indonesia. I’m not suggesting that all Westerners are trapped on a prism of ego, or that all Indonesian people openly invited me in for tea. And I am not saying that I am going to start inviting strangers into my home at night. It would just be nice to live in a future where the kindness of strangers wasn’t such a rare and confusing experience. Ever since interacting with that ping-pong headed old man I am striving to become a more open and trusting person in an attempt to make this future happen in my life.

Forever Floating in Space

How is everyone not in a constant state of panic and awe about the fact we are forever floating in infinite space? We are on a planet right now flying through nothingness and nobody seems to talk about this. This should dominate all conversations! 

We can’t go anywhere that is not in space. I drove to the shops and bought a donut this morning in space.  I just ate a bacon sandwich on a planetI have never flossed my teeth when I wasn’t also rotating at over 1000 miles an hour at the equator and orbiting the sun at a rate of 67,000 miles an hour.

We are constantly moving. If you have a fear of flying then don’t because you have never not been flying. We are perpetually flying on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

So if you’re having a bad day, just remember how amazing it is that you travelled about 1,117 miles in the one minute it took you to read this post. Maybe slightly faster if you are reading this whilst driving, in which case DON’T USE YOUR PHONE AND DRIVE! YOU MAY BE JUST A MARBLE FLOATING IN AN OCEAN OF UNIVERSES THAT IS NEVER ENDING AND ALWAYS EXPANDING BUT DON’T BE STUPID!

I went to see Interstellar the other day so I’ve got space on the brain. It was awesome.earth 2

My Top 5 Favourite Movies

Let me start off by saying that I love lists, and I am a huge movie fan. So I thought I’d start this blog off with a good old desert island, High Fidelity style top 5 list the internet seems to know and love. I believe you can tell a lot about a person through their favourite movies. It is almost a key hole into their minds. So as an introduction to myself, here lies the most formative, resonating, and thought provoking movies I have seen in no particular order:

The Apartment

still-of-jack-lemmon-and-shirley-maclaine-in-the-apartment-1960-large-pictureWhenever I talk about my favourite movies with my friends, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment always comes up. It is such a bittersweet, heartfelt, and clever comedy about real people. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine star as two essentially good souls trapped in a tangle of office politics. Even though the plot is slightly predictable, it is a deeply involving dramatic romance with some great dialogue and three-dimensional characters.

In-spite living in a time where fantastical, multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbusters are coming out every week, I always prefer seeing plausible characters on screen who are just trying their best to make their way through life with all its struggles. This is not to suggest I don’t also enjoy big blockbusters, who doesn’t love living vicariously through the eyes of a Spiderman swinging through New York?! I am just a big fan of movies like The Apartment that take very small situations and make them feel more epic. I like movie experiences that tend to oscillate between comedy and drama, and this does that to perfection. 

Hannah and Her Sisters

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Woody Allen changed my life. He is my favourite filmmaker. Full stop. Like The Apartment, the way he seamlessly drifts between frivolity and pathos appeals to my taste.

At the youthful age of 17 I had no idea who Woody Allen was, only that I heard his name crop up in radio interviews of comedians and writers I admired. One afternoon as I was aimlessly wondering through a second hand DVD store,  rummaging past endless Adam Sandler comedies and straight-to-video Jean-Claude Van Damme movies from the 80’s, when I passively picked up a copy of Annie Hall for 79p. Later that night, with limited expectations, I popped it in the DVD player – and it genuinely transformed my cinema experience FOREVER.

I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

Woody Allen was the first person I saw who combined humour with big ideas. I’d never seen anything like that before. He was silly and funny whilst still talking about something legitimate. To a 17 year old angsty, romantic Sixth Form student who had just discovered reading philosophy and questioning whether the table was really there or just a sensory illusion (I still have no idea), it filled a perfect cinematic hole in my life. I immediately became a mega fan and began working my way through his interminable oeuvre. It was fantastic.

So I feel I have to include a Woody Allen film in this list. It is hard to pick a definitive one, but I always seem to go back to and rewatch Hannah and Her Sisters. This seems to be his most literate movie, and as a literature student it resonates with me. It is filled with universal themes such as: fear of death, desire for love, transient lust, procreation anxiety, and hesitant decision making.

Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s latest epically constructed masterpiece Boyhood. It is nearly 3 hours long. There is almost no plot. But I loved every minute of it. It was absolutely fantastic. Again, it is very similar in tone to the other films I’ve mentioned in the list. A sort of domestic comedy-drama, but very, very truthful, and brilliant performances again.

It is just a story of a kid living his life between the ages of 6 and 18. And that is it. No crazy plot twists. No mad adventures. No kooky characters. It is not building towards any sort of plot twist or cathartic ending. It’s just about a group of people aging, with significant and insignificant things happening in their life. Like Linklater’s well-crafted Before trilogy, it is filled with smart, but natural dialogue.Boyhood-DI

The actors playing the young children at the beginning of the film are the same actors playing those characters as adolescents and young adults. Which makes it all the more special because you really get to know these characters and feel a connection to them. I am a sucker for teenage coming-of-age stories. Movies like Stand By Me, Almost Famous and The Breakfast Club invariably have my eyes glued and my emotions on the edge of a precipice.

I went to see Boyhood on the last day it was playing in the UK at the cinema. It was a matinée showing at there was only four people in the movie theatre, including me and my friend. At about 90 minutes in the other two people in the room said ‘Why is nothing happening!?’ and walked out of the screening. Although rather distracting, I quite liked this moment as it practically mirrored a line from the movie during a scene when the mother character is talking to her son about being disappointed with how her life has turned out:

I just thought there would be more than this…

Boyhood is a refreshing escape from the monotony of real life, to the monotony on a big screen. However Linklater somehow manages to make those everyday moments feel magical and special.

The Godfather (part I & II)

What can I say about The Godfather that hasn’t already been said? Consistently top of the ranks on any ultimate movie list and rightly so. It is an overwhelming masterpiece that is unconditionally flawless.

the-godfather-1

The Darjeeling Limited

Amazing soundtrack, beautiful locations and a great cast. Wes Anderson is another favouite filmmaker of mine. His unique and quirky directing style is always refreshing to my eyeballs. I believe The Darjeeling Limited is one of his most underrated films. 

darjeeling-limitedThemes of brotherhood, travel and spirituality are something I ponder over a lot. Being a person who dabbles around in spirituality, watching this movie is always a comfort to me. The characters set out on a spiritual journey and find closure at the end in India. The ride along the way to this enlightenment is hilarious and fun, in only the way that Wes Anderson can show. The rich colours of southeast Asia combined with the wonderfully aesthetic talent of Anderson makes the entire experience a pleasure to watch 

There is an extraordinary amount of incident and observation into a mere 90 minutes. The brothers bicker, fight, reminisce, and accuse each other of trivial things. Very relatable family moments for me.

But really, I only like this movie because of the 13 minutes of Natalie Portman in the prologue.