Archives for posts with tag: thoughts

*also published on ScreenQueens*

Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behaviour follows the story of Shirin (played by Akhavan) as she attempts to deal with being what her parents want her to be but at the same time staying true to herself and what she believes in – all whilst dealing with being dumped by her girlfriend Maxine. It’s one of the realest films I have seen for a long long time and was such a refreshing experience, because the events that occur are, for the most part quite mundane; but to me that’s what makes Appropriate Behaviour so brilliant – because it’s about life; pure and simple. Shirin’s emotions throughout the film are extremely raw due to her heartbreak and sadness – she acts rashly in several scenes and regularly blows things out of proportion It is these aspects of her character, which are so cleverly crafted by Akhavan that make her so appealing and relatable to most people, because it’s very easy to see yourself within her.

What makes Appropriate Behaviour so important is that it is one of a small number of films that manage to not make a rom-com where the main character is not heterosexual, all about their sexuality. Instead, it is purely about love and its ups and downs; something that there desperately needs to be more of. Shirin’s struggle to come out to her somewhat traditional parents with their disapproval of other sexualities does not drown out the other themes within the film, instead it gives it more layers and provides a truthful view of what it’s like to be in that situation and the stress and uncertainty that hangs over such an action.

Combine a captivating plot and strong jokes with beautiful cinematography and I’m sold; and boy did Appropriate Behaviour deliver on that front. Most of the shots were to die for; one that sticks out in particular is when Shirin is dropping her stuff from her ex-girlfriends apartment into the bin. The shots alone manage to convey her mixed feelings over the situation, something that many films try to do and fail. Extra credit goes out to the amazing soundtrack that partners it – it weaves into each scene perfectly and elevates what you are watching to a hyper-emotional level. Another aspect of the film that sticks out to me is the one based around how we all create situations in our head and imagine how they will play out, but when faced with the reality are more often than not disappointed and left feeling pretty empty. The scene where Shirin agrees to have a threesome with a couple she met at a bar is a prime example of this. What starts out as exciting and novel rapidly becomes excruciatingly awkward and disjointed, culminating with her leaving before anything really happened. While amusing, scenes such as this serve as a reminder that life is often not what it is set up to be.

Appropriate Behaviour is an aesthetically pleasing piece of film, with the shots of Brooklyn making me wish I lived there even more than before. But it is not style over substance – Akhavan is paving the way for female directors and is one of a growing number that are the future of cinema, her film is inspiring in a low-key yet persistent way and interweaves love, hurt and the joys in life that quite often follow that bad times perfectly. It’s also great to have a film that isn’t dominated or led by the typical straight white characters that is sadly still to prevalent in the industry. I started watching with high expectations and was not disappointed. A must watch for everyone.

The first time I ever listened to Purple Rain was, and I’m not making this up – in the rain. I was in the back of the car, at night time and in the rain. Whether or not this contributed to how strongly I feel about it I don’t know – but what I do know is that no song up to that point in my life had ever affected me like it did. The second those iconic chords started I was mesmerised. What makes Purple Rain so special to me is its sincerity; the lyrics take you on this journey of yearning and angst, culminating in Prince almost wailing, “I only want to see you” repeatedly.

 

I interpret the song as being about how time always changes things and takes it toll on relationships. It’s this theme that led to Purple Rain being a song I have relied on a lot throughout my life – whenever I am consumed with uncertainty, or my anxiety is playing up I listen to it. When listening it’s as though for a few moments someone else is relating completely with my life and how I feel – which gives me great comfort.

 

On a more surface level, Purple Rain has everything you could possibly wish for from a song; banging chorus, soulful vocals, emotional lyrics and atmospheric music. Prince created something truly beautiful, which will resonate with me forever – and even with all his diva-ish behaviour (the latest being removing all his music from every streaming service except Tidal – thanks for that), I will always be thankful to him for giving the world Purple Rain.

I remember the first time I heard Unfinished Sympathy because it was whilst watching a music channel on TV, also for the first time (I was hyped). The video for the song is gorgeous and that was not lost on me – I could watch that vid on loop for eternity and never get sick of it, but it was the haunting vocals of Shara Nelson accompanied by a hypnotic slow beat, strings and occasional chords that drew me in. I think it’s the simplicity of the track that got to me – the period in my life when I revisited the song after that first encounter was a difficult one. I was attempting to deal with a mess of feelings and emotions that were consuming me and I didn’t know why (in a few months all became clear as I would be diagnosed with quite severe depression and put on the required medication, thankfully). Everyday was a struggle and I felt filled up with rage, despondency, and apathy – I needed something that could calm me down and for a few precious minutes, transport me away from my life of turmoil – to my own private oasis, where everything was beautifully simple and tranquility was the order of the day. Unfinished Sympathy became that oasis – I spent a lot of time tuning in and then tuning out.

Even now, with my depression kept at bay I’m always drawn to the song when feeling a bit low, or when I need a little piece of time to reflect on things and collect myself. Yet I can also immerse myself in the song during happier times – it accompanies me on walks, doing university work, and when I’m writing. Unfinished Sympathy changed my life in a multitude of ways and I will forever be grateful.

Ten months ago, if someone was to ask me whether or not I liked The Smiths and their music, I would have scoffed in their face and spewed hatred about “his annoying whiny voice” and “dull songs”, which is ironic as until 6 months ago I had never even listened to one of their songs in full. I had created an entirely incorrect and unfair assumption and I can’t even remember why – proving how ridiculous the whole thing was.

Fast forward to around three months into university – at this point whenever I was at my friends flat, she would invariably play The Smiths at some point, because, to be clear – she is obsessed with them. At first I would grumble and air my grievances at being “forced to listen to this shit” but as time passed I found a small part of myself humming along to some of their songs. I quashed this down because there was no way she could find out about this – her smugness would go through the ceiling! I attempted to occasionally enquire about the band or what the song on the radio was about from the fountain of all Smiths knowledge that she is. She always obliged as if there is one thing she loves to do, it’s talk about them – and to be honest I like listening to people talk about things they are passionate about so it was a win-win really.

By learning more about them and actually giving them a chance I have now become partial to a few of their tracks; in particular The Queen is Dead, Panic, Shakespeare’s Sister and Accept Yourself. These songs proved my preconceived ideas of The Smiths wrong, because they are anything but a dirge. I have built up a moderate collection of their songs on my Spotify and what draws me to them is that despite how much I still cannot stand Morrissey – he really knows how to write relatable songs. It is refreshing to every now and again listen to music that really speaks to you, after being bombarded with current day songs that are so often about dancing, getting off in clubs, love, and being rich – that as he states in Panic “say nothing to me about my life.”

Therefore to The Smiths I say sorry. I’m sorry for writing you off so quickly and taking so long to appreciate your great songs. Proving that basing an opinion on ill-judged presumptions is stupid and could deny you something that turns out to be pretty brilliant. And when it comes to music it is always worth giving an artist a chance – as you never know what you could be missing out on.

I don’t think there is anything better than rifling through box after box of vinyls in search of a bargain or something by your fave band/singer (in my case its Duran Duran). I love finding new places to fulfil my craving, and recently I stumbled upon a gem of a place, squished between a food outlet and adult store. Upon entering, my friends and I realised we had entered our own little utopia. Everywhere you looked there was vinyls; stacked up, on the walls, in boxes, placed on shelves and even on the floor. I had never seen so many in one place and doing so filled me with joy. What makes record shops so wonderful is the sheer quantity of music that is held within them; most of them have row upon row of boxes, all with as many vinyls in them as possible. It doesn’t matter what you are looking for – most second-hand record shops will have it, the ones I shop at have everything from thrash metal, to northern soul, to new wave, to reggae etc. The eclectic range of music stocked in them means that even if you have no intention to buy anything, just going into one and browsing is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. My friends and I spend inordinate amounts of time within the walls of these shops and never get bored.

The thing I love most about shopping for records is the smell, like with old books, records seem to take on a particular smell once they get old. As soon as you near a box of them it hits you and I find great comfort in it – it’s as though the smell is an aromatic nicotine. I just can’t get enough (something my bank balance does not appreciate), I’d even go so far as to say that my record player is one of my most prized possessions. Although sometimes I buy my vinyls from online retailers – as they are great for getting something specific and fast. I will never turn my back on these shops, it is important for music and its history that they stay around and I hope that they will for a few more years at least. I also hope that younger people continue to discover records and listening to music on them as it is a really special thing. To be able to sit back and think “I’m listening to something that was made 30 odd years ago,” is not only amazing but also a privilege. Thank god there were people out there who took such care of their records that in 2015 they still play perfectly!

For a nostalgia lover like myself they are the perfect way to temporarily go back in time and forget about everything else, when I enter one I can shrug off whatever is stressing me out and focus all my attention on the records. These shops – no matter where, always have a calming atmosphere, there is no bustling, no shoving and no having to try and peer around other people to get a look at something. It’s as though there is an unspoken rule of chillness. This just adds to their appeal, for someone who gets stressed out super easily it is great to be able to go somewhere and inhale these calming vibes.

I am lucky enough to live in a city that has an abundance of record shops, which makes life just that little bit better. Whenever I have a bit of free time that’s where I’ll be, either with my friends or on my own perusing the fantastic music that sits within their walls or adding to my ever growing collection of vinyls. So thank you record shops for adding that special something to my life’s musical experience.

During nights out with my friends it has been brought to my attention through talking to them and from two first-hand experiences that going to a nightclub and being a woman equals getting sexually harassed. The way many young women at university who I have bumped into in the toilet, or spoken to in the bar queue discuss this issue is with a sense of resignation, it is to be expected, and is therefore ‘old news’, of course this totally wrong. We should be indignant, up in arms and certainly not complacent! But this is where it gets tricky, as the only real thing you can do in a club if you are groped or smacked on the bottom etc. is report it to the bouncer, who depending on how they feel either kicks the offender out, or does nothing. Leaving us with little option other than telling said person where to go and carrying on with the night.

My first experience of harassment in a club was when a man came up behind me and put his hand under my dress and in between my legs. I was horrified. I felt dirty, violated and mortified. However as the night went on my feelings changed to anger, “how dare he touch me like that without any consent.” With my anger slowly reaching a boiling point I left the club to get some air. As soon as I saw my friends I remember squawking indignantly at them about what had just happened. A few minutes later I had received information that the same man had grabbed one of my friends bums and then just laughed. It was after this night that I decided to find out more.

Having talked about this topic a lot with my flatmates and friends, there is no doubt that a harassment culture exists in Britain’s nightclubs, be it Exeter, London or Manchester, women everywhere are subjected to unwanted advances and verbal abuse. Whilst at home in London one friend had a man try and place his hand into her underwear twice, even after she had yelled at him and another got hit in the face by the man she had just asked to stop grinding on her. The fact that these types of experiences occur regularly and across the country is totally unacceptable, there needs to be a huge drive by club security and police to drive this culture out of clubs and make them spaces that women can enjoy without constantly being in fear of harassment. Sadly until then clubs will continue to be predatory environments, where men can seemingly do as they please and women will continue to feel intimidated and on edge.

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This past weekend I binge-watched the show Broad City, getting through the entire first season and
the first two episodes of season two. I’ve finally found a show about young women living in a big city that I can actually relate to. The main characters Abbi and Ilana feel real, they live in okish apartments, with shit jobs that they hate and spend most of their lives broke; something most fresh out of uni people experience.

These aspects of young adulthood are often neglected by films and TV and it’s ridiculous. Take Girls for example, they are all in their early to mid twenties but live in gorgeous apartments, and even though mishaps occur, seem to have lives most twenty year olds can only dream of. TV has a long history of doing this as even seminal shows such as Friends (I still love you Friends, please forgive me) are incredibly unrealistic in terms of lifestyle etc.

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This is why broad city is so refreshing. As a nearly twenty year old I need to have a show that I can see myself in. As a student who is constantly scraping the barrel money-wise it’s almost a treat to find something that I can relate to on such a level. The scene where Abbi desperately searches for her fish bowl full of quarters is eerily reminiscent of myself one morning last week. The incidents and mishaps that occur within the show are not dissimilar to ones I have experienced with my friends. Making the characters friendship a good representation of what friends of that age get up to.

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 It also doesn’t skirt around the grimmer side of humour e.g. Ilana trying to tweeze her pubes in a Topshop changing room.
Most importantly though, it shows early adulthood in all it’s messy, sometimes disheartening but always funny glory. Team all of this with a banging soundtrack, brilliant storylines and solid, hilarious side characters (I’m talking about Lincoln here.The shows unsung hero) and you have yourself a show made inheaven. There’s a reason why Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 96%.

Broad City is exactly what comedy TV needs and what young women need as well, it’s fresh, funny and feminist. A combination not often seen in the media, however I feel this adds to its oddball charm. Seeing characters who are so fiercely feminist, even

if it takes a while to see it, is what society needs to see more of. And especially what other people my age need to see too. So I can safely say, hand on my heart, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer; I salute you.

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Thank you for making a show that I not only feel at one with, but one that makes me sometimes tear up with laughter whilst also making me feel empowered to be me.


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