American Honey: A middle of the road road-trip movie

There’s something to be said for the beauty of nothingness. In fact just this morning I heard part of an interview with Charlie Brooker in which he fondly remembered times of meh in politics as opposed to the lunacy of the current climate. In a cinematic context though; perhaps you could argue that audiences don’t necessarily always need to be blown away by special effects, character development or twists and turns in storylines. However, that’s not to say a story in which nothing really happens will be able to hold a viewer’s attention. Certainly not for three hours in my opinion. American Honey has all of the right ingredients of what you’d expect from a coming of age, naturalistic, existential road-trip film. It’s avant-garde. It’s raw. It’s got the beautifully edited scenic camera shots that break away from the narrative. And yet for an art film, it felt like it was trying too hard to be just that. The panned camera shots were too frequent to have the desired effect of breaking away from the plot. Instead they felt almost like a storyline in themselves. As though perhaps this was actually a nature documentary with dialogue and some quirky characters thrown in for good measure. Its artistry felt predictable and at times, forced. One thing I will commend though is it’s ability to portray a very middle of the road experience. There were no truly shocking dark moments as such; even though certain instances set the scene in which you expected them to occur. There were no clear lessons or messages put forward by the film. It was simply a road trip film challenging the ideologies of the American dream, attempting to give an accurate portrayal of the desperation felt by some to make money and survive. And you as the viewer were just along for the ride. 

Advertisements

Somewhere in between a foodie and a food critic

fullsizerender-13

* Food makes me happy

I have absolutely no grounds to call myself a food critic other than that of my tastebuds. However, I was raised on a diet of restaurant cuisine from a young age. One may argue that it was my family’s penchant for dining out (my father having belonged to a London restaurants society), coupled with the desire to emulate popular female TV characters, such as Carrie Bradshaw, whose fast-paced glamorous lifestyles left little time for cooking, that deterred my desire for cooking skills. One could also argue my dismissal stemmed from the headstrong notions of a preteen girl intent on rejecting female stereotypes. I was a rather precocious child; often outspoken and convinced everything was a conspiracy. Nevertheless I grew up with little to no interest in the kitchen, instead I decided to focus my efforts on developing my palate. A palate that originally, was somewhat averse to change. Hence there was the Coco Pops summer of ’94, the Greek yoghurt and rice Autumn of ’95 and the beef stroganoff winter of ’97 (though my father was to blame for the last preoccupation as it was a dish he believed to have perfected and continued to prepare it weekly for a solid three months.

Despite my North African ethnic origins, the flavours and indeed spice levels of most of my mother’s traditional Arabic cuisine was far from my liking. Indeed my mentality seemed to be that of the blander, the better. Meanwhile my mother was busy chugging tabasco and no doubt narrowly escaping the development of an ulcer. Suffice to say I have left the days of chicken dinosaurs and happy meals behind me and have refined my palate throughout the years. I have even upped my spice game and am no longer part of the feeble ‘lemon and herb’ misfits at Nandos. At this point though you may be wondering what ‘foodie’ in their right mind would dine at Nandos but when it comes to grilled chicken, not only do they do it for a reasonable price (I’m a strong believer in getting what you pay for), but they do it well.

fullsizerender-14

*Everyone deserves a ‘cheeky Nandos’ at some point

The same may even be said for Pizza Express, though I hold pizza somewhat closer to my heart (she says whilst injecting mozzarella directly into her veins), and as such have narrowed down my favourite London pizza establishments to a top three; Homeslice, Pizza Union and Pizza Pilgrims.

img_8431

*Please excuse my friend in the photo above, he was eager to devour our impressively-sized pizza, courtesy of the aforementioned Homeslice.

Due to my insatiable appetite for dining out, I came to be known as the ‘foodie’ amongst my group of friends; always ready with either a personally reviewed or well-researched list of top food establishments for various types of cuisine. I rationalised that since I would be paying considerably more to dine out rather than cook my own meals, the food I sampled should taste near orgasmic – if you’re imagining the cafe scene from When Harry met Sally, then you’re on the right track. Time Out and other London guides became my starting point before selecting an eatery, naturally followed with a cross-referencing on Tripadvisor to ensure quality. I was always on the hunt for the newest spots and hidden gems that London had to offer. Unsurprisingly I would often myself in ‘hipster territory’ but having lived in Shoreditch for a couple of years I imagined I could just about blend in. Nonetheless my friends would not hesitate to spare me for shameless ridicule when I would casually mention I had visited a ‘life drawing class-rave-brunch’ event. As I typed that I realised I don’t blame them.

Though my endeavour was not restricted to food. Despite being a renowned tea fanatic (and by renowned I mean my former colleagues held an intervention for me in the office), I have recently discovered the joys of a good cup of coffee. The reason behind my previous distaste for the beverage, I realised, was due to my limited knowledge of the existence of establishments other than Starbucks, Costa and Cafe Nero. However, I have spent the majority of the past year ‘working from home’ whilst I studied for my masters degree. This provided the perfect excuse to become a ‘working on my laptop in a coffeeshop’ type. As we all know, the complexity of the design atop the foam on your coffee is all the evidence you need of the ‘trendiness’ of an establishment.

coffee-design

*It should be noted that I’m still not a ‘real’ coffee drinker as I’ll often opt for a mocha or flavoured latte

That and the decor, which should include furniture made out of things not intended for use as furniture i.e. giant metal milk churns, wooden tree-stumps and (my personal favourite) space-hoppers.

I have also spent the past year involved in greater independent activity (this is another way of saying I have been single), including solo cinema trips, solo travels and solo dining experiences. As a result I’ve noted the importance of good customer service. Granted it has been said that British staff may not be as famed for customer skills as their American counterparts, nevertheless its significance should not be overlooked. Without the distraction of a dining companion customer service becomes a lot more prominent. As such, I have noticed that some establishments located in or around tourist hotspots tend to have staff with somewhat shorter tolerance levels. Most memorable of these was Cafe Concerto of which I’ve visited three of its London branches and have been incredibly offended across the board. At least they’re consistent eh. With a high-end menu and extravagant furnishings, they have proved once again that a great dining experience need not be determined by price or decoration. This has also been a lesson learned since moving to Tooting and discovering that the best curry houses are the ones resembling modest cafeterias opposed to plush restaurants.

Thus I retain that I am closer to that of a ‘foodie’ than a food snob. Unfortunately since I began writing this piece the term has become obsolete and us hipsters are now referring to ourselves as ‘yum-yums’ (not to be confused with the Greggs pastry).

Make art

I feel like we live in a world where everyone is constantly screaming to be heard… where we vocalise every thought, feeling and opinionand in a world with so much noise I find myself becoming more quiet

I crave silence

and stillness 

I don’t wish to speak just to be heard 

I don’t want to share my innermost thoughts only to have them lost in an abyss

So I lock myself away and shut out the world. I seek distractions. And every so often, in the silence, I find music. My music. My peace. Whether it be through watching or listening or having some sort of ethereal experience in which I can appreciate something that has been created. Something that inspires me to create. I reach a point of complete tranquility in which I feel bliss and elation seeping from every pore. I feel okay. I feel that everything is going to be okay. In that moment I feel as though the world isn’t all that bad. And that maybe people are inherently good. In that moment I realise that art, real art exists. Not the mindless shouting or the noise or the hate. There is beauty in art. There is love in art. And as corny as this sounds, perhaps it is art that will save us.

First rule: There are no rules 

I am not an exception to the rule. I’m not special. I’m not unique. What am I am however is someone who questions the authenticity of the ‘rules’. That is not to say that I am a rebel. Far from it in fact, I was the epitome of a ‘goody-two-shoes’ at school. Often branded a teacher’s pet. And ‘weird’. That phrase was also usually thrown about. I didn’t own being weird either. I desperately craved acceptance and popularity. I wanted to be one of the ‘cool’ kids. Though thinking back, I probably was cool. In my own way. I remember being branded a conspiracy theorist at the age of 9 as I was convinced Princess Di had died under suspicious circumstances. I also remember having an awesome physics teacher who furthered my belief that it was only logical to believe that aliens existed. As I said, I was a bit of an odd ball. I also remember my parents being informed at a school parents evening when I was about 7 or 8 that I asked a lot of questions. This was not relayed enthusiastically. I remember thinking why on earth shouldn’t I ask a lot of questions though. What are they hiding!? As I said, I was a precarious child. I remember thinking that that Pinnochio kid had the right idea, always asking why. Although what he should have probably been asking is why I grey-haired old man spent so much time with puppets and decided the only way to have a son was to wish one alive. Not quite sure I knew where you were going with that one Disney. Nonetheless, I’ve always asked questions and it is these that have led me to wonder about the validity of certain rules. Certain cultural customs that we just blindly accept. And as I have become more startlingly aware of these unspoken rules, I have become more inclined to challenge them. Once again I should point out that I am not a rebel. In any way, shape or form. This is not me advocating the lure of danger, or living on the edge, nor am I asking you to be more adventurous or to break the rules. It is simply an admission, perhaps more so to myself more than anyone, that I’m going to have to be okay with the fact that perhaps not everyone wants to challenge certain systems and may not understand my reasons for doing so. But perhaps we don’t have to constantly vocalise all of our opinions (I realise that this may seem like a particularly foreign concept in current society as we spend the majority of our time on social media platforms doing precisely this, I also note the irony as I share this train of thought on social media). I suppose what I’m getting it is not only are there preconceived notions of acceptable or accepted behaviour, but also of those of ‘rule breakers’. When perhaps in actuality, there are no rules. There is only behaviour. Behaviour deemed to be normal. But in reality, there is no normal. 

I’ll see your ‘The Notebook’ and raise you ‘The Danish Girl’

In the last three weeks I have jetted from London to LA, LA to Mexico, Mexico to Toronto and Toronto to London (albeit the flight to Toronto was only a stop over on my return back to London). Nonetheless, as someone who struggles immensely to sleep on airplanes, these journeys were used to catch up on all the newly released movies I had missed in the cinema. Among my choices, and perhaps the only one worth a mention and indeed a blog post, was The Danish Girl

Those that know me will know that I’m not much of one for romantic movies. They’re usually split into two categories I find; romantic comedies (in which the romance is based on some sort of warped neo-sexist ideology and the comedy is abysmal (if existent at all), and romance films (i.e. the “tearjerkers”), in which the romance is overdramatised and intensified to the point of farce. The majority of the latter usually result in 90 minutes of me rolling my eyes I’m afraid. I realise I may sound incredibly cynical and you may even be thinking good grief does she have no heart! But the fact of the matter is, I’d rather choose a gruesome tarantino, a thrilling scorcese, or a geektastic marvel or sci fi film over a love story. Or so I thought. 

An hour into The Danish Girl and admittedly Lili’s delicate hand gestures/movements and nervous little smiles and chuckles were becoming somewhat tiresome, but it is the second half of the movie in which I felt truly moved by her story. As you witness her struggle and confusion over her identity throughout several doctors appointments and inaccurate diagnoses, as well as the changing dynamics of the relationship between herself and her wife Gerda, you begin to recognise the complexity of emotions felt by the characters. At the root of it all though is love. Authentic, unfaltering, undeniable love for Lili from Gerda. And that, ladies and gentleman, is what makes a love story in my opinion. It’s not flowers, it’s not Valentine’s Day, it’s not wondering whether or not the person is ‘into you’ or justifying or overcoming reasons of why you can or can’t or should or shouldn’t be together. Love is doing whatever it takes to make your loved one happy. Even if it means having to lose them forever. It is the absolute definition of selflessness. Gerda was there for Lili every step of the way no matter what, and that is what makes The Danish Girl such a beautiful, emotional and honest love story. 

I was first!

I once asked a wise man whether it was about quality of content or quantity of content…he replied ‘Both’.

I no longer think this is the correct answer. Unfortunately we seem to be living in a time in which it no longer matters what you post but rather when you post it. What you have to say about a particular occurrence or life event is of little importance; what matters is that you are the first to say it…and that people acknowledge that you were the first to say it.

I recently fell ill and as I could barely move for a few days the last thing on my mind was checking my social media accounts and commenting on recent events. It was a detox forced upon me by circumstances I could not control. I was ‘off the grid’ or ‘MIA’ if you will. It actually felt strangely liberating…and yet a couple of weeks prior when I dropped my phone in water and was without a mobile phone for a couple of days I felt panicked and fidgety…in fact I’m pretty sure I was suffering from similar twitches to those of a junkie experiencing withdrawal (think Jessie from Breaking Bad – this is the second time I’ve referenced Breaking Bad in one of my blog posts, I’m clearly still not over the show ending).

Alas the feeling of freedom I had experienced during my time away from social media was quickly replaced by a sense of panic yet again as I made my return to the world of digital communication devices. First were my emails; I had missed out on getting some tickets I had eagerly been awaiting. Then came Twitter; I had lost some followers due to my sudden lack of tweeting. There was also the countless news/pop culture stories I had missed that I usually find out about through either Twitter or Facebook. Not to mention various friends personal updates; Penny’s wedding day photos, Mya’s latest photo of her baby daughter in yet another “amusing/adorable” outfit, Rob’s cryptic and just that little bit passive aggressive status about someone “doing his head in”. These were things I missed. Correction: these were things I had missed out on knowing as they happened and therefore could not provide a live running commentary as my fellow social media users could. However, these were not things I missed in the same way one misses a loved one. Nevertheless missing out can cause anxiety; hence the introduction of the term ‘FOMO’ into our vocabulary; on which I have previously written a blog post.

As I attempted to catch up I realised it was a fruitless and incredibly time consuming task. It was useless. And what I would I really gain by scrolling back through my various accounts? Jenny’s photo of her breakfast 3 days ago? Mike’s twitter feud? James’ gym selfie? Were these things I needed to know? Though perhaps we are now living in a perpetual state of ‘catch up’. My social media accounts are the first thing I check in the morning when I wake up and it has become almost second nature to scroll back to see what I missed whilst I was sleeping.

I cannot deny the sense of elation I feel after a well-timed comment or tweet though. For in that moment, I feel relevant. Important even. I have contributed to the conversation at the right time and my contribution has been recognised…perhaps even praised through the form of a retweet, ‘like’ or share.  Although I am fully aware of the absurdity of this feeling. In fact I often feel an overwhelming desire to mock myself in the moment.

“It is imperative that you know I am currently in China Town” is what I cynically thought last night as I shared a photo on my Snapchat story of my surroundings. Of course it isn’t! In fact it is almost ludicrous to think that anyone would care, but perhaps what is more worrying is that people do. People digitally ‘follow’ you for just that reason in fact.

Unfortunately though, as a result of our attempts to ‘be first’ in sharing content online, we have fallen victim to commenting on everything. Even in cases in which perhaps our comments are not warranted, wanted or in any way shape or form, well informed or executed. As I said, it no longer matters what you say as you long as you were first to say it.

 

Do we still suffer from FOMO?

 

 

tumblr_mf2qottpz61rf3y4qo1_500

‘FOMO: anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.’

In 2013, FOMO was added to the Oxford English dictionary. Once again I was late to ball as I only noticed its infiltration into popular culture and discourse in 2014 whilst coming across various Buzzfeed posts centred around the term…

The 6 Stages of Chronic FOMO Everyone Experiences

19 Signs You Live With Spine-Crippling FOMO

11 Signs You’re Infected with FOMO

In all honesty I had somewhat forgotten about the phrase; perhaps because I am no longer at the job where browsing through Buzzfeed was the only thing keeping me sane whilst simultaneously accelerating my downward spiral into madness, or perhaps because it is simply no longer in circulation due to a decline in its popularity and use. There is of course also the possibility that I am no longer ‘down with the kids’ and no longer able to keep up to date as to what the ‘hip’ new vernacular seems to be but for the purposes of my delusional belief that I am still ‘cool’, let’s assume it is the former rather than the latter.

Nevertheless the expression popped back into my mind a few weeks ago on my commute home as I noticed a couple of advertisements placed side-by-side in an underground station.

 

I found these adverts particularly interesting as they seemed to have one key thing in common; FOMO. They were attempting to capitalise on the fear of missing out. Granted this is probably not a new advertising or marketing strategy  but I was still rather impressed by this direct tactic and clear message.

By inferring that the consumer would not rise to the challenge of what the advert was asking of them (albeit through somewhat passive aggressive and manipulative discourse), they were both targeting the consumer’s competitive nature through provocation as well as alluding to the reward on offer that others will miss out on.

As a digital media masters student currently studying a promotional culture module I found this form of marketing rather intriguing as I had never so consciously been taunted by an advertisement before. It would be interesting to find out just how effective these adverts and tactics have been. I suppose this depends on where we do in fact suffer from FOMO…

According to this Buzzfeed quiz, I quite clearly do…

I got FOMO! Let’s be honest, you saw someone else take this quiz and you just had to get involved. You have severe FOMO and you’re fine with it. Better that than be stuck inside on your own, right? Life is for living! Sorry, we won’t distract you any longer, there’s probably something much more fun you could be doing.’