My 2015 favourites

HI! Hope you all had a lovely New Year, spent with friends, family, a bottle of wine, or perhaps just a comfy bed.

This is just a small post about some of my favourites throughout 2015. Film, literature, music, random little things that made me happy throughout the year. ENJOY!


 

MUSIC

I spend a lot of my time commuting, so having something good to listen to is essential for me.

My first favourite is not actually music – but what I listen to music through.

One of the few perks of working in retail are the discounts companies give to re-sellers of their products. Now, I’ve always been a huge fan of Bose, so when I was able to buy some of the headphones for a ridiculously good price, I jumped at the chance. I now listen to pretty much everything through Bose Qc25s. They have active noise cancellation technology inside them – which basically means they cancel out every piece of ambient noise around me. On top of that, the sound detail is exceptional. Worth every discounted penny I paid for them!

Here is a link to the favourite tracks I’ve listened to this year. Not all of them were released this year, but why should that matter? This was the year that I discovered how amazing Fleetwood Mac are – nothing like being 40 years late to the party.

Enjoy the eclectic mixture!

FILMS

2015 was an incredible year for cinema, and choosing a small number of highlights is a very difficult task. But here are the top 5 films of my year.

#5 SLOW WESTDir., John Maclean

A brilliantly dark-humoured western. To me it was a skewed retelling of the damsel-in-distress story – except the damsel in question was in no need of rescuing from the well-intentioned, but often inept Jay Cavendish, played superbly by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Michael Fassbender also stars, and as we’ve come to expect, is excellent, as the outlaw turned guide to Cavendish.

#4 ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRLDir., Robert Eggers

You would be right in thinking that cancer is hardly a topic that is suited to comedy, but in the case of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, this couldn’t be further from the truth. This film is such an honest portrayal of how shit scary something like cancer can be – and it is hard to watch at some points. However, the darker moments make the lighter ones even more uplifting. The film is sentimental without being mawkish. It is charming without being sappy. It is funny without being cliche. It is a wonderful example of how to rightly portray adolescence on film.

#3 Mad Max: Fury RoadDir., George Miller

I really love the first two Mad Max films. The originals, with Mel Gibson before he got really weird. They’re gritty, and the production levels are so basic, and campy, and hammy, and just so great. So it was with trepidation I stepped into the theatre to see¬†not quite a sequel, but not quite a reboot. Even with the star power of Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, I was nervous. Turns out, this was completely unfounded. A brilliant film where you can practically smell the grease and petrol emanating from the screen. It’s a physical experience to sit through, hearing the gears grind, metal shearing apart, sand whipping into your eyes – and it is made even better by the outstanding leading role played by Theron.¬†It would not be amiss if the film was called Imperator Furiosa, rather than Mad Max – for nearly all of the film, the male lead is mute, or speaks in grunts. Cinema got the feminist hero we were all waiting for, finally!

#2 Star Wars: The Force AwakensDir., J.J. Abrams

No spoilers. I will just say this film was exceptional. It payed homage in all the right ways to the original trilogy, whilst making me deeply invested in the new additions to the Star Wars universe.

#1 Inside Out Dir., Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen

Not many films make me cry. But this one did. Perhaps the greatest Pixar film ever made, which is quite a tall order, yet I do stand beside that. Beautifully realised, it is deeply touching in all of the right ways. This film made me think long and hard about my own emotions as a child, and where they have led me as an adult. It made me think about how my actions must have negatively affected my parents – we all laugh about how parents worry about us, but it wasn’t until I saw this film I even contemplated the emotional torment I must have put them through. It’s not all emotional contemplation it provokes – like any Pixar film (except perhaps Cars 2) I was laughing continuously throughout. Having Amy Poehler, who is one of my favourite actresses certainly made me laugh all the harder. I want nothing more than for this film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Not just as it would be groundbreaking as an animated feature has never accomplished this – but for the simple reason that it deserves to!

Special mentions: Brooklyn; Ex Machina; Samba; Still Alice


 

BOOKS

‘YES PLEASE’ – Amy Poehler

As mentioned only briefly above, I’m a big fan of Amy Poehler. Parks & Rec is one of my favourite comedy shows, and as a person, Poehler is pretty inspiring. She is a writer, performer, and has set up a Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls – an online space for women and girls to encourage, inspire, and motivate one another. Her book ‘Yes Please’ was wonderful to read. Part memoire, part advice book, part comedy sketch, it reinforced all the things I believed about Poehler to be true. She is smart, super funny, articulate, and incredibly passionate about what she does. If you need uplifting, this is the book to do it.

Collected War Memoirs – Spike Milligan

My hero, Spike Milligan wrote 7 volumes of his war memoirs, and to my shame I can’t remember which number I started off with this year. However, it doesn’t really matter. These memoirs are a beautifully funny account of one man’s dance with sanity in one of the most insane situations a person can find themselves in – a World War. The 6th and 7th volumes actually take place during peace time, as Spike shuffles around Europe, developing as a performer and finding and losing love, and ultimately, describing his tentative steps in UK show business. These final chapters were incredibly revealing about one of the greatest comics we’ll ever know.

‘Chavs: The Demonisation of The Working Class’ – Owen Jones

This was a incredibly enlightening read. A very detailed and thoughtful examination of vilification of certain social groups within the UK – in this case, the demonisation of the working class through the term ‘chav’.¬†Whilst incredibly interesting in terms of subject matter and analysis, what was striking, was what I learned about myself through reading it. I learned how easy a trap to fall into shaming other people can be – purely out of convenience. It is incredibly simple to target a social group that is not as well off as the one you are in, and mock that. I like to think that I’m far more aware and sensitive to things like that now – and even actively try to help others. I’m glad I read this book, if only for the reason that it has helped me understand how important it is for me to be mindful of other people.


 

2015 felt up and down for me. I’m very happy in the life I’m living – I have a steady, if unfulfilling job, I have a safe home, and a loving family. One of the best parts of my year has been maintaining some great friendships, and making some new, wonderful ones.

In 2016 I’m enrolling in a journalism training scheme, and will hopefully begin a career that I can be proud of.

Fingers crossed.

J.

 

 

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TRAINWRECK: My review

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It was with only a small amount of trepidation that I went to see the latest Judd Apatow-produced film. The last film of his I went to see was Anchorman 2: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and the less I remember about that film the better..

I was worried that I’d reached my ‘peak Apatow’.¬†Were the¬†films that I’d laughed myself to tears during my teenage years – ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’, ‘Superbad’, and ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’, only funny because I was young?

As much as my male lizard brain likes fart jokes, and watching grown¬†men blunder in an eternal adolescence, I’ve started to seek out more when it comes to comedy. This is not to say that I haven’t gotten that from Apatow in the past. My favourite film of his was ‘Knocked Up’, which to me was such a heartfelt, bittersweet send up of one of the proverbial man-children coming to terms with what it means to take responsibility.

I say ‘was’ my favourite, as ‘Trainwreck’ has taken its crown. I barely stopped laughing from start to finish,¬†and that was mainly due to the blisteringly funny acting of it’s leading actor, and writer – Amy Schumer. I’m a bit late to the Schumer hype train, which I’ve noticed rumbling on around me over the past year. I’m now truly on board, and over the next few days I plan to binge-watch everything I can find of her on YouTube.

In Trainwreck, Schumer’s character, conveniently¬†named Amy, seems to be an extension of her stand-up routine. A brash, I don’t give a shit feminist who confronts existing standards of how women are supposed to be in real life, and portrayed on screen. Amy drinks, smokes, has a whole load of sex, and works at an FHM-like magazine whose headlines go something like ’30 Ugly Celebrity Babies Under Six’.

What feels very¬†refreshing is that you never¬†feel that Amy is being shamed for the lifestyle that she lives.¬†How she lives¬†isn’t ideal, and introduction of sports doctor Aaron (played by¬†Bill Hader)¬†into her life is certainly¬†a positive thing, he isn’t presented as the stereotypical white knight. He helps Amy discover that she is more than how she sees herself.

It is because that Schumer wrote her character as being more than just the butt of a joke this film works so well for me. Amy is a character that many of us can empathise with. She is potentially every other person on the street, doing ok in life, working at an OK job,¬†she has¬†a good family and good friends around, yet you get the feeling that there is something missing, even if she doesn’t quite admit it to herself. How many of us often feel ourselves in that exact situation.

Just like Amy, the film is not without its flaws. Some of the celebrity cameos seem just a little too shoehorned in, even though Hader’s character is a surgeon to the stars. If you’re nit-picking, is Schumer’s character THAT much of a trainwreck anyway?

This film is a thoroughly enjoyable, and refreshing take on girl-meets-boy romantic comedy. It’s testament to Schumer’s sharp writing that film manages to carry it off so well. It’s full of heart and with some truly hilarious supporting roles, it leaves me thankful that Apatow’s¬† films may be maturing along with me.

4/5. Go see it now! If anything, for the surprisingly brilliant comic turns from NBA star LeBron James, and WWE wrestler John Cena. Seriously, I was surprised as anyone!

A thought on Syria

This won’t be a long-winded post about the current situation playing out in Syria. There are far more skilled writers than I that are doing more than enough at the moment.

As the news of chemical attacks has unfolded this past week, numerous heads of state have rightfully so condemned this act as morally wrong. But it made me question the logic of such a statement. The Syrian civil war has been raging for over two years now, and at what point was the killing of tens of thousands of Syrians via conventional methods, ie. bullets, knives, explosives and a plethora of other instruments of death, morally justified?

It made me recall the reaction of knights during the Hundred Years War to the longbow. They were outraged that chivalrous knights could be felled at 400 yards by a mere peasant. How was this new form of combat fair. Somehow, death at the end of a sword wielded by a nobleman was better than a bow in the hands of a peasant. This sounds just as absurd as suggesting that it is a greater moral disgrace that a Syrian dies by chemical weapons, rather than a gun. In the end the outcome is equally as tragic, and it seems that it will continue for a long time to come.