What I’ve Been Watching: 05/08/16 – 11/08/16

Loneliness, aimlessness, uncertainty, and Ice Hockey.

I’ve been rather adrift these past couple of months.  I guess one less miserabilist than I could call it a transition, but I am myself so I’ve felt adrift.  I finished University in late-May, got kicked back home early-June, and officially graduated mid-July.  For the first time since I was about 5, I am not in Education and I don’t have that structure to organise my life.  More than that, though, I have finished University.  Three full years of my life, done, and everything that I’d built into my life and my identity – my student-accommodated flat that felt like Home, the village it was located in that felt so familiar and comforting, the student radio station I’d thrown so much of myself into, the wonderful people I had been able to inexplicably convince should be my friends – gone.  Being sent back to the town I have long since lost any desire for, far away from anything of interest, and with any personal growth and changes now negated through an infantilising and overbearing mother (cliché of clichés), it was basically impossible for it all not to get to me.

Most of all it was the separation from my friends that was driving me further into that pit.  I have an inordinately hard time being social, particularly with people I don’t know, it’s rare for me to find genuine connections with other people, and it’s rarer still for them to not only appear to not secretly hate my guts but to also seem to have that connection right back with me.  Third year of University (mostly spurred on by groundwork laid by the year prior to that) gave me that, those connections, that sense of belonging, of having met the kind of wonderful amazing people that make my life richer for knowing them and who tolerate my existence right back.  But University ends, other people have their own vastly more interesting lives and, more importantly, live in non-backwater places, and so, one by one, each trickled away home, out of reach.

This happens often.  I mean, of course it does, it’s Life and friends come and go, but I can’t accept that.  Because of that aforementioned difficulty with socialising, every time a friend I had considered close leaves for one reason or another, that incessantly loud voice in my head that reminds me of how worthless and lonely I am points out how I am back to Square One, progress deleted and my default state of being returning.  We, of course, live in the modern hyper-connected age where no-one really exits any one person’s life – what with social media, text messaging, online chats, etc. – but, and this is not wishing any shit towards my Internet friends of whom many are my absolute closest, that intangible long-distance connection cannot subside those feelings of crushing loneliness or personal inadequacy alone.  I, at any rate, need the kind of physical personal connection that was missing from my life for so long, but that’s difficult to accomplish when you no longer live in close proximity to one another and they have busy lives they need to attend to.

But, in a rare moment of actually yelling “fuck it” to the part of my brain that dissuades me from actively hoping (due to “The Worst” being the default setting on my life events), I’ve been trying to stay in active contact with those I would otherwise no longer know.  It’s not been particularly smooth sailing – people, unlike myself, have lives which can make responses delayed infrequently, and if you think I’m a really awkward neurotic mess in person then you should see my attempts at messaging – but doing so and receiving responses that don’t read “Please never talk to me ever again” is helping to at least slightly combat that uncertainty over the future, planting hope that maybe things won’t have to change much.  Things effectively culminated in a friend’s flat cooling party last Friday, the first time in nearly a month that a bunch of us got to see each other, and even though not everybody could make it for one reason or another, enough did to quietly convince me that maybe, this time, progress doesn’t have to reset, at least not for a little while longer.

At a certain point in the evening, I just laid down on the living room floor for about 15 minutes or so.  I wanted to just lay in that moment – in that room, surrounded by so many of my friends, all of which I don’t want to live without, back together despite the geographical distance and the fear that they’d rather hack off limbs than be in the same room as me again – for a while; chatting, staring.  I felt happy, a feeling that’s often foreign to me yet I recognised here instantly.  The feeling wouldn’t last particularly long after that but, for that wonderful night, I was happy.

Here’s what I’ve been watching this week.


Goon [Friday 5th]

Dir: Michael Dowse

Year: 2012


Philip Sharman complained to me after I re-watched Goon that nobody believes him when he tells them that it’s actually great.  And whilst I do admit that I may have put the film far too high on a Top Films of 2012 countdown I did for an honestly-kinda-terrible podcast I used to be a part of way back when (although I still look back on all that with fondness but we’re getting off-topic on tales for another time) in reaction to my surprise of it being so great, Goon is really fuckin’ great.  It’s so wonderfully sweet with some of the most effortlessly likeable leads (played perfectly by their respective performers) in any movie released this decade underneath that swear-y, raunchy outer-shell.  But it also manages to be a quietly powerful film about knowing your limits and coming to terms with that, culminating in a final punch-up that is simultaneously completely pointless and the most meaningful and important thing in the film’s world.  It’s a phenomenal film and more people should give it a go.


Lemonade [Saturday 6th]

Dirs: Beyoncé Knowles, Jonas Åkerlund, Kahlil Joseph, Melina Matsoukas, Dikayl Rimmasch, Mark Romanek, Todd Tourso

Year: 2016

First-time viewing

I have basically nothing to add here critically that hasn’t already been said far better by people who are far more qualified and far more eloquent than I am on the subject, so I’ll leave them to provide you with that kind of critical analysis for now.  Instead, I just want to quickly mention how strange it felt to view Lemonade, three months after release and having been over all corners of the media landscape for the vast majority of those months, without actually knowing anything about it.  As in, despite its ubiquity and my being late to the game, I still didn’t know what to expect or much about it prior to viewing.  This is not out of purposeful ignorance or anything, mind you, I read many a piece and I had friends who kept going on about it, and there’s no real point to this observation; I just find it weird that something can so totally dominate and own the pop culture conversation yet still leave the prospective experiencer no more informed about what they’re actually in for.

Also, this is almost certainly going on my Top 20 Films of 2016 list at year’s end, don’t @ me.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. [Saturday 6th]

Dir: Guy Ritchie

Year: 2015


U.N.C.L.E. is the film that Guy Ritchie had basically spent his entire career building up towards making.  I mean, there’s obviously that glorious (apparent) style-over-substance and barely-restrained homoeroticism of his Sherlock Holmes movies, but there’s also the same tonal-juggling act and cheekiness of his early gangster films here too, only with the usual masculine “boys will be boys” tone frequently punctured by the mere presence of Alicia Vikander, like Ritchie is using her as a vessel for his admission that the types of films he used to make, whilst not without their charms, are very boyish and childish nowadays.  Everything to do with Rudi, for example, is basically the flaming caravan from Snatch but done on a big crowd-pleasing budget.  It’s the film Ritchie had to make, because it’s the culmination of every single film he had made up to that point, the perfect outlet for his sensibilities and especially his music taste, and it’s a goddamn crime that Warner Bros. so totally bungled its release, ensuring that this would only be a one-off instead of a full franchise.  I mean, look at that last shot!  Fucking LOOK AT IT!

Rocky II

Rocky II [Monday 8th]

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Year: 1979


Rocky II is more than just “Rocky but Rocky wins this time,” although the fact that he does win kinda undermines the whole movie if you stop to think about it for a few seconds.  It spends much of its runtime working from the solid base that the first Rocky provided it with: how can Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed go back to their lives now that that match has happened?  Rocky gets too free with his newfound wealth, as anybody who has spent much of their life poor would do, and discovers that, despite his desire to, he cannot give up boxing because he literally has no other skills, qualifications, or options open to him.  Apollo, meanwhile, becomes consumed by the idea that the underdog came close to defeating him which, fuelled by hate mail and death threats from people who believe he fixed the result in his favour, leads to him having to embrace the role of the villain in order to make this fight happen.

Rocky and Apollo NEED to fight each other again, despite the former not having his heart in it for much of the story and the latter being detrimentally obsessed by that fact – little surprise that basically all of the Rocky movies are Stallone venting his soul in some way when you think about it, is it?  What keeps II from greatness, unsurprisingly, is the final fight being pitched as a crowd-pleasing blow-out to an uplifting underdog story with a victorious ending rather than what it really is: a sad spectacle of two obsessed men fixated on replicating a once-in-a-lifetime lightning-in-a-bottle event for mercenary reasons due to them having another choice.  Of course, to pitch it like that would be to deny the world further Rocky movies, so on balance it’s a sacrifice I can understand and ultimately live with (because I love me some Rocky movies) but it’s still disappointing in regards to this film.


Anomalisa [Tuesday 9th]

Dirs: Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson

Year: 2015 (technically)


I’m gonna hold off on writing about this until the Best Of lists come year’s end, which it will be on and which it will be very high on.  This film really, really connects with me in ways that are understandable, uncomfortable, unexpected, and mostly just super personal and require a lot more than two paragraphs max to deal with.  Plus, y’know, those super personal dives into my headspace always go down so well with my non-existent readership.  Until then, Anomalisa is one of the year’s absolute finest films, painfully and brutally honest, and everyone should check it out ASAP.

Frances Ha

Frances Ha [Wednesday 10th]

Dir: Noah Baumbach

Year: 2013


I wish I could couch-surf.  That’s my main takeaway from my second viewing of Frances Ha.  I wish I could spend my days hopping between the sofas and spare rooms of my various friends, getting understandable-yet-semi-annoyed looks when I give varying excuses of why I can’t pay full rent that month, in shared circumstances over a lack of jobs and money yet bonded by that common fact and us all ultimately feeling closer together as a result.  Unfortunately, a complete lack of basically any money at all on my part and Britain not exactly being New York City basically guarantees that such experiences remain wishful thinking on my part.

Yes, I know that had basically nothing to do with Frances Ha.  Take the general sentiment of my Anomalisa entry and change the fixed-writing date of “End of Year” to “Some Point in Time in the Future Maybe” and you’ve got my Frances Ha opinion-sharing plans.


Highlander [Wednesday 10th]

Dir: Russell Mulcahy

Year: 1986

First-time viewing

S’bit shit, really, isn’t it?  I mean, I guess I can see the appeal for certain people, but I was literally bored to sleep by the final 10 minutes and I was never really interested in it or engaged by it at any point before that anyway.  The flashback sequences are alright, for the most part, but the modern (at the time) stuff is ugly and awful in the way that a lot of mid-to-late 80s alt-cinema is, which I just cannot gain any pleasure or enjoyment from.  I guess that it’s campy as all get out, but not in a way I personally like; this is more like the wannabe prog-metal album covers you see spray-painted on the side of a van by exactly the kind of person that you’re thinking of when you read this description.  Again, I do see the appeal, but I prefer my tales of penis envy to be a little less obnoxiously macho.

Also, I found Christopher Lambert to be distractingly too much like both God’s failed first draft of Thomas Jane and a knock-off Mattel figurine of Arnold Schwarzenegger that’s been in the washing machine a few too many times.

Callie Petch is a Rocky, run a hundred mile before their coffee.

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