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A review of ‘The Social Dilemma’, expressing just how important it is to highlight the dangers of Social Media and why we all need to be having a conversation about it.

By Mollie Campbell

For years, I have been chewing people’s ears off about how destructive technology and social media can be; I wrote an article about it a couple of years ago on my blog. I believe that whilst technology and social media obviously has its uses and tremendous benefits, the negative side of the technological coin is something we really need to accept as a real threat, a human race-altering threat. But when I talk about this stuff, people fob me off as some sort of conspiracy theorist. Even though there have been numerous scandals including the Facebook – Cambridge Analytical data scandal back in 2018, people don’t seem to take it seriously, because everyone is under the influence of social media. So when I watched The Social Dilemma and noticed that it was growing in popularity, I was compelled to write an article to hopefully keep the conversation going.

The Social Dilemma got its initial release at Sundance Film Festival and has now been added to Netflix, the film is a docudrama about Technology, Social Media and the people running things behind the other side of our screens. A group of former employees from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest etc… Explain how these companies manipulate ‘us’ or as they call it the ‘product’ by advertising, data collection and psychologically persuasive tactics so that we keep feeding their money machine. At the same time, there is an acted plot to back up the points that are being explained to us, a story that may help connect to people on more of an emotional and relatable level. One of the main voices in the film is former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris who has now devoted his time to firstly co-found the Center for Humane Technology and secondly in becoming a voice to warn the world of how dangerous their social media usage can be, enlightening people of this catastrophic danger before it’s too late, but my question is… is it already too late?

The movie helps peel back some of that mystical, exclusive curtain of Silicon Valley, of which society seems to view as the pearly gates. A lot of people have ambitions to go to Silicon Valley and when mentioned in conversation it is regarded as the Holy Grail, but it is a lot farther from holy than the average person perceives. Some of you may be thinking ‘how bad could it be’? ‘all they do is promote shows and stores I’m interested in’, whilst that is factually correct, have you ever asked yourselves the reason why? The pool goes a lot deeper than just marketing and advertising; in fact the pool is a vast ocean of money, greed and deceit. The people behind the screen that you stare at with such blind trust aren’t just putting out a few ads for each user to see, they are manipulating every move you make. The people who work at these companies are some of the cleverest in the world, and they are using their brain to control yours by inputting all of these strategies into computers in order for AI (Artificial Intelligence) to fulfil all of these strategies in real time, without supervision…if that doesn’t sound like a dystopian nightmare to you then we have no hope. It may sound harsh but once you realise that you are the puppet on the string, the easier it will be to start making steps towards changing that.

This movie isn’t telling you that you have to get rid of all social media and technology forever, it is simply warning you of the undisputedly intentional manipulation tactics these companies are using on you behind closed doors, tactics that are so clever and deceitful you don’t even know how it is affecting your brain. We aren’t saying that it’s all bad, but at this point the negatives are slowly consuming all of the positives. We don’t need a revolution but if we all work together we can dismantle the technological system and rebuild it in a more humane way, with a system that benefits us instead of treating us like virtual horses at auction.  

Think of every new radical thing that has been invented in human history e.g. printing press, airplanes etc.… they have changed aspects of society. But that’s the thing, ‘aspects’ is the key word. Other than electricity, technology and social media is the first thing that has rapidly and abundantly seeped into every crevice of the structure of society, how it works and how we run it. We speak to friends online, we begin romantic relationships online, we can order anything we want online, we apply for jobs online, we read newspapers online, we watch movies online, the latest generation of kids have grown up in a society dominated by social media, think about it…they have grown up with a system that only really started to become of mainstream importance around 15 years ago.  

Their lives and our lives are being controlled by apps, a word that wasn’t popularised until 2008. And these apps may be ‘free’, but as we have seen with everything else within commercial markets, nothing is free and in this case, we aren’t paying a monthly subscription, we are paying for it with our lives. We are being sucked into a reality that isn’t real, an existence whose principal objective is to monitor and monetise every action we take, every post we like, every video we save… that’s what we’re subduing ourselves to when we spend an afternoon scrolling meaninglessly, they are ultimately starting to own our lives. I’m sure some people will disagree with that statement: isn’t Facebook great for staying in touch with distant family members, documenting memories with friends and so forth? Yes, but not when the very thing that created this possibility is not only documenting our lives for its own artificial storage, with an intent to use that very data against us, it has also consumed so much of our time that our connections with the real world are lessening, ironically, people are now so caught up in a social media site that their social interactions are actually diminishing, their happiness levels are dwindling, a subconscious anxiety is bubbling within their minds due to the very thing they are holding in their hands that they ‘can’t live without’.

Lastly, the most cataclysmic consequence of all is its power to use people’s minds and brainwash them into ways of political thinking that they wouldn’t necessarily have thought about if the seed wasn’t planted by intentional misleading advertisements from sites like Facebook. This brainwashing is causing a battle between the left and right in real time that is so fierce and bitter, it is scary. The left are being told things about the right and vice versa and because they are reading this information on an ‘authentic’ site they think it’s true, and they take this belief into the streets with them, bringing out the worst members of society and giving them a viable platform that even highly ranked officials agree with and endorse. This is heavily covered in the film, a final point that seals the deal in terms of the importance of The Social Dilemma being one of the most chilling, candid and crucial films to be released in recent years. It starts the conversation, a conversation that is needed more than anything.

If you are interested, here is the link to my previous article about the consequences of Technology and Social Media: https://mollie-writes.com/2019/01/16/is-technology-and-social-media-becoming-so-integral-to-peoples-lives-that-it-is-lessening-the-impact-of-our-passions-just-how-dangerous-is-it/

Thank you for reading, and if you want to find out more information on ways you can help keep this conversation going, here is the link to The Social Dilemma website: https://www.thesocialdilemma.com/

‘By Night’s End’ – Movie review

By Mollie Campbell

Movie: By Night’s End

Genre: Crime/Thriller

Director: Walker Whited

Cast: Michelle Rose, Kurt Yue

Rating: 6.5/10

By Night’s End is a classic crime thriller, a haunted couple being blackmailed and threatened by criminals looking for something of value in their house. But as the movie goes on, we realise how deep these seemingly one dimensional characters are, the emotional relatability they possess, and just how far a journey they are headed on, outside of the frightening situation they find themselves in.

The movie opens with a seemingly normal couple, despite money and employment issues they are mostly happy. Straight away, things aren’t right…there is this strange orange background light that reoccurs at many times within the movie, which is synonymous with war, dust, bombs, dystopia and gives a naturally apocalyptic feeling, which really hooks the audience onto this perception of dread throughout. The music immediately sets the vibe of the film within the opening scenes with its 90’s style thriller tones initiating this perpetual notion of uneasiness. When things start to take a natural turn in the wrong direction, the characters start to act in ways that shock each other, I was very impressed by Heather’s (Michelle Rose) reactions to her husband’s (Kurt Yue) actions and how taken aback she is by the whole situation.

As the movie goes on we see different sides of the characters and their relationship, and we begin to realise that this is more than just a bad break-in gone wrong, much more emotional baggage is shed on this wild night of intensity. Again we see the re-appearance of the orange light that seems to be following Heather around, especially at times in which the character is scared or doing something particularly reckless, which seems to be a common pattern as she is pulled further into this twisted nightmare. As the ordeal continues, both characters start to make surreal choices, each of them shocking and affecting the other, and showing the audience how humans can react in situations of sheer terror and desperation. As the plot heats up, we are given more of an insight into their relationship…instead of bringing out the truth in the bad guys and escaping, everything that unfolds only acts as a catalyst in bringing out the hidden dark truths in each other. This time the orange represents the heat from the tense and truthful conversations they start having with one another…heating up their own emotions as opposed to sparking up a plan to get out of there.

A touching moment stuck with me and for the first time I truly felt the two main characters connect in a way they hadn’t before, it is tender and full of sentiment, bringing them closer together at a time in which their very world could be right on the cusp of shattering. This all unfolds in a nice little juxtaposition that acts as a useful stimulus in terms of capturing the viewer’s emotions and prompting them to believe in the characters sentiment and intentions.

There are many other little nuances that really add to the tone of the film, a small box of children’s toys that Heather manages to extract peace from in such a tumultuous time is an example of how the movie’s undertones have managed to make an impact. The only negative I have is that sometimes these undertones turn into overtones that take a bit too much attention away from the external threat. But it certainly doesn’t get subdued completely…if anything it makes the viewer even more anxious for the wellbeing of the characters due to what these sub-plots reveal. It does manage to highlight other issues without becoming totally disconnected, which is always a danger when switching to topics that delve deeper than the context of the originally perceived storyline.

The two main stars do the story justice with their truthful representations of two people battling inner demons; we watch them finally work as a team to partly rid themselves of these demons, save the day and their relationship. The camera work is great, the music complimentary of a unique thriller and the sub-plots add extra layers of substance. All in all, I really enjoyed this movie and would definitely recommend you giving it a watch.

DarkCoast will release ‘By Night’s End’ on October 6th onto various digital platforms (Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, FlixFling, GooglePlay, Vudu and AT&T).

Thanks for reading!

The lack of black authors included on English curriculum reading lists, how it is depriving us of a tool to educate children on black history and how it highlights the clear remnants of systematic racism.

By Mollie Campbell

As an avid reader and writer, I have always devoured literature of all kinds, of many genres, written by a wide racial spectrum of authors. But recently I realised that the only reason I am aware of half the black authors I read, is due to personal research and education in my own time, I never got taught this stuff in school, leading me to question our school’s on a much deeper level.

I have looked back on my time at school and compiled a list of all the works I remember studying, here is the list I came up with:

Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde

An Inspector Calls – J. B. Priestly

Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

The poets I remember studying were:

W.H. Auden

William Blake

R.S. Thomas

Carol Ann Duffy

The one exception I could find was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and bearing in mind that I went on to study further by doing A-level English Literature as well, it is absurd that I never got taught any works by black authors, or even got prompted to immerse myself in a wide range of culturally significant authors, the majority of what I was taught was written by white men. Now don’t get me wrong, the works of Shakespeare are tremendously important, a lot of these books are obviously ground-breaking either emotionally, socially, historically, or politically, so why then, are we failing to include works that were also of huge assistance to political revolution and social change written by black authors?

There are many examples of how literature helped with the Civil Rights Movement of the 50’s and 60’s, one of the biggest being the works of James Baldwin. Baldwin’s ‘The Fire Next Time’ released in 1963, was not only a leading literary work that contributed to the dismantling of an outdated public favouring of racial inequality and segregation, but also helped politically. His works were introduced to then attorney general Robert F. Kennedy and when he met with James Baldwin in person he was incredibly moved by his words and what he stood for. President Kennedy was already very conscious of civil rights and segregation and cared deeply about dismantling it, but there is no doubt that his brother’s meeting with Baldwin only added more fuel to the ever growing moral fire that finally needed to be addressed socially and politically. This is an example of the power of some of these texts by black authors. And something that can have that much of an impact in terms of a whole political operation and social movement, is surely worth teaching in our schools?  

Using works like these in our schools will help to dispel any inkling of racial bias and prejudice from a young age, especially in predominantly white or privileged areas. Using these texts not only educates and informs children, it also opens their world up to a whole new diverse realm of influence and voice in a true light, as opposed to mind-bending, sensationalised headlines in the news. These books are a direct insight of true black experiences, as opposed to a white person falsely recounting a black person’s experience, as if the story has to go through the medium of a white person first to be valid (which in itself is a much deeper issue that also seriously needs addressing).

Some of my favourite writers are black, yet I discovered them because I did extra reading and research, the curriculum is missing some ground-breaking historical works by black authors e.g. Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker and in more recent years, Malorie Blackman. And incorporating works that were actually used alongside music and public protests to create social change in the 60’s is never not going to be important, inspiring and informative, so why don’t we include more of them? This leads to bigger questions, what are the specific reasons for excluding these great black authors? It all stems back to a deep-rooted sense of racism that we still have in this country.

Amidst these black lives matter protests, I have seen many people on social media claim that racism is over and that the UK in particular is not a racist country anymore. How can you possibly say such a thing when 1. You are white and have never had to walk in the shoes of a black person, thus never living through the experiences they have to endure and 2. The evidence is everywhere, in particular, the school curriculum. If our educational board cannot find the courage to add more diverse works from all ethnic groups into our schools, how can they expect us to grow as a diverse and caring generation and country. If there are still white men at the top deciding to only include literature created by other white men centuries ago, how is that racially diverse?  How is that not systematic racism?

I’m sure people will say ‘give them a chance’. But have they not had the chance? When will they finally change it? The fact that in 2014 they decided to remove ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ from the school curriculum is absolutely absurd. So now, not only is there a significant lack of works by black authors, there aren’t ANY books in the curriculum that educate and inform us on black history at all. If that isn’t alarming you to the fact that there clearly is still a racial inequality issue within this country, then you are well and truly asleep. I’m sure some people will try to claim that maybe the books I am talking about are outdated, in which case, are these works by old white men with horrific attitudes towards race not outdated?

In conclusion, I am recounting my educational experience in the South of England; some of you may well have studied more works by black authors, which is great. But having had a look at curriculum reading lists, Southern England isn’t the anomaly, the whole English curriculum needs re-examining. If we want to truly live in a country, in a world where everybody is equal, how can you overlook one of the most fundamental aspects of education…literature. It’s hard to believe that in 2020, this issue still needs addressing, but clearly it does.

Joker – movie review.

By Mollie Campbell

 

Director: Todd Phillips

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy

Rating: 9/10

 

Disturbing, moving, sad, violent, profound – all of these words could be used to describe Joker, the Taxi Driver of its generation.

Comic book fan or not, chances are you’ve either seen this film or heard a lot about it…it would be rather difficult to miss the hype and the multiple best picture/actor/director wins. If you are one of the latter, watch this film as soon as you can, whilst it is disturbing, the message is more relevant than any other film portrayal in recent years…a direct reflection of the manifestation of human traits deep within us, provoked and awoken by how people are treated.  The film is based solely on the life of Arthur Fleck, despite some very memorable portrayals of the joker in the past, from Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger respectively; this is the first time a movie has made an entire 2 hour space for the one character himself, as opposed to him being a villain in Batman’s story. And the way Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Philips use this space to portray the deep, disturbing personality of one of history’s greatest villains, is true astonishing.

Instead of him just being ‘the joker’, we see the man behind the white paint and red lips, we are given an insight into the timeline of his mind-set and development into this psychotic villain we know so well, the dark yet eerily familiar road he travels on to become the joker, is the scariest part of all. That road isn’t too far from where we are as a society right now, the political system in most countries; the USA in particular, has never been in such turmoil. The battle between the left and right has seemingly overshadowed the utterly consequential battle of right and wrong, demagnetising a lot of people’s moral compasses. This battle between left and right has completely dominated any space we ever had for what truly matters, the party of the people, the idea of putting human kindness and decency before money, politics, power and greed. We, the people who need help, not a political system designed to help a small amount of people at the top, as opposed to the true crux of society. A political system that forces people to act out of character, creating a breeding ground for anarchy and political revolution, whilst Arthur Fleck and the city of Gotham is fictional, this film is accurately reflecting the society we are currently creating. And if we’re not careful, we too will be surrounded by this cloud of darkness that defines Gotham, and the wickedness that lives within its alleyways.

This film is a warning to society on how we treat people, we need to de-stigmatise the shame surrounding mental health, and how the government handles people who fall under this bracket. Mental health has become one of the leading issues we face in our society, and there simply aren’t enough resources and help for people suffering with mental health disorders. The government needs to step up, yes. But we also need to think about what we can do as a society to prevent people with mental health disorders from feeling so isolated, we need to realise how much our words affect and hurt people. In a time of technological rifeness, we have the ability to spread love and positivity, instead we spread hate and anger, which only adds fuel to the fire for some people suffering with mental health problems. This is Arthur Fleck, of course he has some deeply rooted issues, he is a psychopath, but this film makes you ask the question: would his monster have been unleashed if society hadn’t treated him so cruelly? Would he set out on a voyage of revenge if he had more access to proper resources? Or simply, if people would have been kind to him, would he have reacted to society in the way that he does?

In my opinion, Joker is a spiritual sequel to Taxi Driver, in an incredibly similar yet different set of circumstances. In Taxi Driver we see Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle, a very troubled young man with clear signs of mental health disorders. Whilst using unconventional and dark methods, he is ultimately a hero, a twisted one, but a hero nonetheless, or vigilante at least. Travis’ unstable mind could easily have developed into a full-on deranged psychopath like Arthur, he is on the cusp. What is scary about Joker is that Arthur is the Travis Bickle of our generation, yet this society seems even worse than Travis’, resulting in a much darker ending, very reflective on modern life. The scene in which Arthur is in his full on Joker gear, standing on a cop car surrounded by chanting looters and criminals is spine-tingling, a thrilling climax to the tale we are all afraid of. But if we ignore it for too long, we will find ourselves in this terrible, dystopian world, full of people we neglected, people with nothing to lose, and by that time, it will be too late to stop it.

Joker is one of the greatest movies I have ever seen, Joaquin’s performance is outstanding, and Robert De Niro’s role is incredible, we would expect no less. The film almost seems like De Niro handing over the baton to Phoenix, one leading method actor of his generation to the next. Travis Bickle transforming into Arthur Fleck, only in this tale, there is a lot more at stake. Todd Phillips managed to deliver a poignant, moving, disturbing and impactful film, in which the character’s presence is bigger than the film itself; there is no doubt that this movie will one day be considered one of the greats, in my mind it already is.

Netflix’s ‘Outer Banks’ – Season 1 review.

By Mollie Campbell

Show: Outer banks

Genre: Teen, Drama, Mystery

Cast: Chase Stokes, Madison Bailey, Jonathan Daviss, Rudy Pankow, Madelyn Cline

Rating: 5/10

 

Outer Banks is a coming-of-age, murder mystery show. The lovechild of Beverly Hills: 90210 and Dawson’s Creek. Or The Goonies meets a much less interesting version of Bloodline.

Set in the Outer Banks islands in North Carolina, the show begins with the introduction of the four main characters who are classed as the ‘poor’ people of the island or the ‘Pogues’, they are ‘John B’ the group’s ringleader whose father went missing at sea months before, ‘Kiara’ who used to be a kook (one of the rich kids), ‘JJ’, a seemingly laid-back guy who actually turns out to be a much more deeply layered character than expected, and ‘Pope’ a local smart kid. The upper class are known as the ‘Kooks’, consisting of ‘Sarah’, Kiara’s ex-friend, John B’s future love interest and the daughter of Ward, a wealthy businessman whose actions and secrets lead to a rabbit hole of mysteries.

The start seems quite solid, four kids fishing, surfing, drinking beers and laughing until the sun goes down, a classic CW style show. But as the episode progresses, things get quite strange, so much so that I actually still don’t really know what to make of the whole show. This is the start of many little interjections of storylines and subplots, there is an ongoing aim for the show, but it is so fragmented it is almost painful to watch. John B, upon searching for his father, somehow manages to find the location of a shipwreck from years before, a shipwreck that was searched for by many fisherman and townsfolk over the years but is somehow discovered in 2020 by a group of teenagers, this is the first of many unrealistic events, so get used to it! In doing this, they discover the coordinates to hidden treasure; gold that has been presumed to be lost for years. This really is the start of a very silly Scooby-doo style goose chase, as the pogues begin a journey into a completely unrealistic world.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t somewhat enjoy it, as I was very interested to see how it ended. But in order to enjoy it, I really had to switch off the common sense portion of my mind. By stopping myself from picking it apart; it made for some mindless entertainment. The acting isn’t appalling and the story has good intentions, but it is so far-fetched it could never be taken seriously. The only storyline worth watching is one that dares to dig deeper, the portrayal of JJ and how he deals with the physical and emotional stress of his father’s abuse towards him. It is acted very well and is incredibly impactful to watch, intertwined with the character’s personality traits and the reasons why he reacts to situations in the way that he does.

Lastly, despite some interesting sub-plots and the beautiful summer scenery, the writers couldn’t quite keep a grip on its originally intriguing plot long enough for it to be the great show it could have been. The scenes become less engaging as the show progresses and the interactions between the characters become so unrealistic that it grows stale just when it needs to be heating up, making it difficult for the show to really take flight. As a lover of all art forms, I really do hate to totally trash a creative effort, I’m sure not everyone feels the same way I do about this show, that is the beauty of art. But personally, I would give it a miss.

Netflix’s ‘Never Have I Ever’ – Season 1 review.

By Mollie Campbell

 

 

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Coming-of-age

Created by: Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher

Cast: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Darren Barnet, Ramona Young, Lee Rodriguez

Rating: 9/10

**Contains Spoilers

 

Never Have I Ever is a fresh new drama disguised as a comedy, it is funny, relatable and plunges far deeper into the pool of serious topics than I ever would have expected.

The show begins with Devi Vishwakumar, an Indian-American sophomore student whose father recently died, resulting in temporary paralysis which put her in a wheelchair. The first episode marks her return to school for the first time without her wheelchair and her mission to change her life in order to make her and her friends, Eleanor and Fabiola, rise to the top of the school’s social hierarchy. The show doesn’t hold back on its content, as straight away we see Devi trying to secure boyfriends for the trio, in order for her to take the next step sexually. By openly discussing these topics in the show from the word go, it instantly sets a realistic yet sensible tone to the whole series.

It instantly expresses real thoughts and feelings that teens are facing in the 21st century, and portray the situations and scenarios that they go through. And instead of this resulting in a negative impact for young people watching in terms of teen pressure, it actually creates a safe space for kids to think about the things that these characters are going through, allowing them to relate to these situations and encouraging them to openly discuss these things with their friends and parents. As the show progresses, Devi gets into a rabbit hole of a situation by asking Paxton (a.k.a the hottest guy in school), to have sex with her. This doesn’t end up happening but she lets her friends and her peers think it is true in order to become ‘popular’. This is also shining a spotlight on the consequences of teen pressure and how things can become twisted, and whilst it doesn’t praise Devi for her poor choices, in fact, the whole storyline is sort of a guide on what not to do in High School; it also continues to make you see things from her perspective.

Moreover, as this storyline is happening, Devi is seeing a therapist who is trying to help her delve deeper into her feelings about her father’s death. This is also handled well because it shows that just because someone may not want to open up about their grief with a therapist; it still impacts their life on a daily basis. Despite all of the other things that are going on in Devi’s life, a lot of these scenarios lead back to a memory of her father. The show covers a lot of ground, just in little 22-30 minute episodes. It tackles some pretty hefty and serious issues, all whilst maintaining its image as a comedy, the writing continues to be witty and hilarious, often just moments after very insightful and impactful scenes. The writers manage to weave many different topics in out of the shows core so effortlessly, it all flows impeccably. There is one scene in which Devi goes out to the garden’s vegetable patch, she is feeling ok when all of a sudden she gets this intense memory of her father growing tomatoes in the exact same place where she is standing, she drops the tools and runs back into the house. To me, this perfectly sums up the strange waters of grief; the tide can change in mere moments. Often, it’s not always the big stuff that triggers you, but simple little memories that have the power to make you randomly cry your eyes out.

Another scene is when Devi is sitting on a school bus and sees an ambulance shoot past her; this instantly takes her back to the night of her father’s heart attack, showing just how many painful reminders there are after you have lost someone. As Devi gets dragged deeper into her white lie, her friends are left behind to face their own issues that she is completely oblivious to. Through all this, we learn more about Eleanor and Fabiola. Eleanor, an aspiring actress, has recently learned that her mother (who left her to pursue a career in acting as a child), has been living 20 minutes away from her for the past two months. We watch her storyline as she finds her mother, lets her back into her life, and is disappointed once more when she leaves her again. Meanwhile, Fabiola has realised that she is gay, she comes out to Eleanor and attempts to do the same with Devi, but she assures them that the ‘shit’ she is going through is bigger than theirs. This causes a complete shift in the dynamic of the friendship group, as Devi’s pain and grief is causing her to treat her friends horribly. Grief makes you kind of selfish, so wrapped up in your own pain that you forget about the ones around you, and some people cannot tolerate it forever.

This represents the messy factors of grief and also portrays a difficult family situation with Eleanor and a well-handled coming out storyline for Fabiola. And somehow, even within this entire messy situation, the show still manages to portray issues from other minor characters like Devi’s cousin, who is set for an arranged marriage, and her mother who is struggling without her husband and is finding her identity lost in a place she wasn’t born in. The writers really give insight into Indian culture, and how it integrates into American society (and the many ways in which it doesn’t), whilst still maintaining respect for both cultures. Eventually, Devi realises the mistakes she has made and patches things up with her friends, and finally, the true extent to her grief unfolds.

In the closing scenes of season 1, Devi, her mother and cousin, scatter her father’s ashes into the ocean in Malibu, this really got to me in an unexpected way. The only issue I have is the implication that the grief goes away due to scattering the ashes. Maybe that happens for some people, but when I scattered my father’s ashes, it was therapeutic, but it definitely did not banish my grief forever. If anything, it got worse as the façade of the initial, intense grief went away, the cloud of shock dissipates, leaving the earth shattering realisation that he was gone forever, and the lifelong grief that came with it. I am very interested to see how they handle season 2, if it is renewed. I sincerely hope Netflix decides to continue this show, I am struggling to find any faults, and the only negatives I took away were completely minor things not even worth mentioning. I am incredibly impressed with this show and thoroughly enjoyed its characters, storylines, relatability and diverse representation, highly recommended!

 

 

The Sun Is Also a Star – movie review.

By Mollie Campbell.

 

Movie: The Sun Is Also a Star

Genre: Teen Drama, Romantic-Comedy

Director: Ry Russo-Young

Cast: Yara Shahidi, Charles Melton, John Leguizamo

Rating: 6/10

 

The Sun Is Also a Star, (adapted from the book written by Nicola Yoon), is the latest teen rom-com to land on Netflix. Initially, it screams cliché, it seems so familiar, a story that has been portrayed so many times, wrapped in the same paper but with a slightly different coloured bow. And it is just that, but it still somehow manages to blaze a trail, as small as the path may be.

This story, set in the beautiful summer backdrop of New York City, introduces us to Natasha Kingsley, a Jamaican immigrant who just so happens to be leaving the following day, due to her entire family’s deportation. We watch as she frantically tries to set up meetings with the immigration office to prevent her from leaving the city she has grown up in, the film instantly does a good job in portraying the complexities of immigration. Yes, her parents are presumed to have come to work in the United States illegally, but the tone that is laid out to us is that of an empathetic one. She never chose to be catapulted into a new country, but she was and this is now her home, complete with an American accent. Meanwhile, Daniel Bae, a Korean-American high schooler who is preparing for his college interview at Dartmouth, with hopes of becoming a doctor, is seen nonchalantly travelling through the city as if it was just a normal day.

Disclaimer: this movie will melt the hearts of true romantics and call a dramatic eye-roll to action for cynics of love, dreamer’s vs realists. And if you’re like me, somewhere in the middle ground, this movie is probably perfect for you. Sometimes it is ridiculously pie in the sky and at other times, it is tender, insightful and honest. You have to accept the film for what it is straight away if you have any hopes of enjoying it. The true essence of this movie is the idea of fate, and how things come into play in our lives without us realising the true extent of its origin or meaning. And this one day in the city that never sleeps proves to be an example of this ‘fate’ that the main characters keep harping on about. On this particular morning, Daniel see’s Natasha and is instantly convinced that he is meant to find her and fall in love with her (the scene in which this unfolds isn’t nearly as corny as I just described it).

The problems I have is the classic structure of the movie, the girl who is critical of love and anything to do with the subject being whisked away on a fairy-tale adventure by some hopelessly romantic man trying with all his might to make her fall in love with him. And the speed with which this happens is so farfetched it is comical, but despite these unrealistic aspects, the onscreen chemistry is heart-warming. What makes it different from the rest is that the romance isn’t the only focal point, it also provides insight into a wide range of issues and whilst it may not tackle them, it brings them to light whilst seamlessly weaving it in and out of the plot’s core. There is a scene in which the camera pans out across the summer sunset skyline, the Statue of Liberty standing tall within the centre of the shot, this beacon of hope for millions…the city of relentless hope. This scene is inspiring, relevant and pieces the puzzle of the film together.

Lastly, the film does actually get better as you go on, the plot becomes more realistic, as the characters realise how unfortunate their timing is, harshly showing us that sometimes life works out in ways that we cannot control, love is something that asks us to navigate through choppy and unpredictable waters, even if it is fate. As the minutes are clocked up, you can really see the vison of the film and what the final aim was.

At the beginning, I was rolling my eyes, but by the end I was thoroughly enjoying it, it is inspiring in ways I didn’t expect. This film may be a tad unconventional, but it is a harmless 1 hour and 40 minute journey into a heart-warming world in which one moment of openness and truth, changed everything, igniting an unwavering sense of hope in these two young hearts forever. And in times as uncertain as these, maybe we need to cling onto that hope with all that we have left.

 

Bob Dylan’s new chilling and retrospective song ‘Murder Most Foul’ and how it confirms the eternal genius of a masterful poet in a modern world.

By Mollie Campbell.

When I woke up this morning, I didn’t think I would be in for a treat this big…a brand new Bob Dylan song. And after one listen through, it is, in my opinion, one of his greatest works since he burst onto the folk scene in the 60’s.

As a lifelong fan of both Bob Dylan and John F. Kennedy, I was never going to dislike this song. The moment those keys start, a Moonlight Sonata-style within itself, you can already feel the depth of the song in your gut. The stripped back beauty of the keys, that iconic singing, the sheer conviction in his voice is a tale within itself, and the haunting beauty of that solitary violin, a continuum of sound, abruptly drawing emotions from deep within your soul.

The fact that he released this song during a time of such chaos, uncertainty, conflict and the most human solitude we have encountered as inhabitants on this earth possibly since World War II, is certainly telling. This song was written a few years back, but choosing this time to release it, it is clear that the situation we are currently in, has taken Dylan back to the same set of emotions or perspective he felt during those solemn days in November of ’63. It reflects upon those raw emotions that are still very current in terms of the Kennedy assassination, the nation’s grief and a loss of America’s innocence that has never truly been healed. Not only does it show how prominent and shocking the Kennedy assassination was, it also acts as a short movie, a glimpse into the whole of Dylan’s life, and every trend in popular society since the 1950’s. It is almost a love letter to Bob Dylan, by the man himself…a nod to all of the previous issues he has ever written about, social change, political movements, human injustice, crime, pain, suffering, love etc. Dylan himself has never gone into too much detail about JFK, in his memoir ‘The Bob Dylan Chronicles’ (One of my favourite books), he mentions that President Kennedy visited his hometown in Minnesota when Dylan was in his late teens, he said he wished he’d have been there to see him, but he has never gone into too much detail in terms of emotion.

In this song, he delves right in. He doesn’t sing in an overly affectionate way, and he doesn’t sappily portray Kennedy as some huge hero, instead he talks of the injustice of his killing, how it was essentially prophetic from the first day he was elected into the White house and the sheer horror of the whole situation, ‘a murder most foul’. He also starts namedropping tons of pop culture references, song lyrics, famous names, places, everything that was an after-effect of the JFK assassination ripple. In my opinion, he is speaking directly to Kennedy, telling him not to worry, his life’s work was carried out vicariously through millions of people, carrying his legacy forward, retaining this peaceful mantra filled with equality and human strength. He mentions The Beatles, Woodstock, the Altamont Free Concert, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Gone with the Wind, Wake up Little Susie, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Patsy Cline, Etta James, Don Henley & Glenn Frey, Karl Wirsum, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Lindsey Buckingham & Stevie Nicks, even Shakespeare. He also mentions a lot of places within the Dallas area and the state of Texas, alluding to the idea that the Kennedy assassination was always meant to happen, as if it were somehow set in stone, just down from the crossroads and the Trinity river, as if it was a prophetic blues tale from Robert Johnson, or a folk-lore song from Woody Guthrie.

The fact that Dylan is still producing such masterful, poetic and truly spine-tingling songs like these is astonishing, he manages to write with the same infectious pulsing rhythm, chillingly relevant lyrics and haunting truthful vocals, as if we were right back in ’63 listening to him sing ‘The Times they are a changing’, recorded merely a month before Kennedy’s assassination. And for his first original release in 8 years, it is pretty overwhelming. It delivers that same sense of shocking honesty we’d expect from ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’. It ends with ‘Play the “Blood-stained Banner”, play “Murder Most Foul”. This is most likely a reference to either the ‘Third Flag (e.g. the Blood-stained Banner)’ which was an unpopular new flag designed to represent less of the ‘Yankee Blue’ and more of the confederate states (introduced in 1865). Or it could be the African-American hymn ‘We are soldiers in the Army’ also dating back to the American Civil War, with the lyrics:

‘We are soldiers in the army, we have to fight although we have to cry, we’ve got to hold up the bloodstained banner, we’ve got to hold it up until we die!’

This would be alluding to African-American slavery, and the fight for justice and equality leading all the way up to Kennedy’s run for president, and his famous backing of African-American communities… he fought mercilessly for Civil Rights, essentially holding up the bloodstained banner as a symbol of what came before and what mustn’t happen again, the ‘sacrificial lamb’ mentioned early in the song. Slain due to his beliefs, yet Dylan is assuring him and his ‘lost soul’ that his work was carried on, things did get better (somewhat at least), leaving the listener with a tiny shred of hope. The hope we all need to hold onto during these strange times we find ourselves in at the start of our generation’s 1920’s, the potential lead-up to our own great depression, and the pained yet magical blues songs that came out of it. Deep within those songs, resides hope.

After we make it to the other side of this pandemic, let us never take the beauty of life for granted again.

By Mollie Campbell

Throughout this surreal period of self-isolation and social distancing, I have been re-reading some of my favourite poetry books/authors. Despite this pandemic, I don’t want to take this time for granted, so instead of going on social media/using technology every 10 minutes, I am going back to basics.

We may not be able to control what is going on outside of our walls but we can control how we react to it and what we do during this time. Take this time to remould your view on how you want to live your life, teach yourself how to enjoy the sheer beauty of living. Start ticking off goals from that list you made on New Year’s Day, the one currently gathering dust within a pile of notes by the door. Control how you react to the situation and learn from it. This is a time to grow, instead of taking a step backwards…as with many things, it’s all about perspective.

Whilst I have the ability to communicate with the entire world at my fingertips, I am actually using this time to limit my internet use. Instead, I think this is the perfect time to really work on ourselves, spend some time in the silence with our own minds. Set some goals, do what you love, read some books, make something, create some art, express yourself. Most importantly, know that you are not alone. As I said, I have been re-reading a lot of my favourite poets and authors over the last week and feel the need to share this one:

” We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time” – T.S. Eliot.

This prompted me to write my own little piece:

“When all of this is over, let us rejoice in celebration for this beautiful planet we call home…the planet we have neglected for far too long. Let us be kinder to one another, let us feel in our guts the true beauty of living, in every deep breath we take. Let us preserve the beautiful blue crystals we call oceans and the bright green forests we used to call home. Let us never take life for granted again” – Mollie Campbell.

Thanks for reading:)

 

‘Hunters’on Amazon Prime Video – Season 1 review

By Mollie Campbell

Genre: Crime-Drama

Cast: Al Pacino, Logan Lerman, Lena Onlin, Carol Kane, Dylan Baker

Rating: 9/10

 

****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD******

 

Hunters…what can I say? This show is full of twists and turns, highs and lows, violence and depression, with just a hint of downright silliness. It is meaningful, complicated, emotional, explosive, mysterious and thrilling. Despite some criticism, I think this is one of the most exciting, intricate and impactful shows ever released, especially in recent years.

 

***FINAL SPOILER WARNING

 

The story begins in June 1977, this wacky and psychotic series opener aims to shock, and it sure does succeed. A couple head to the barbecue of their neighbour, the wife, who is Jewish, recognises the host ‘Biff’ (Dylan Baker) as a Nazi, the Nazi who killed her family, posing as an All-American father in a big house in Maryland. Within moments, he kills everybody there, including his own American wife and family. He grins and begins speaking in a harsh German accent, recites a little speech about Nazi’s, their power and his disgust for Jewish people and then gleefully kills her. A man ‘Travis’ (Greg Austin), who we know later on as a complete ego-centric psychopath, visits Biff at his home to clean up the bodies and shoot him in the arm, so as not to blow his cover. The opener sets the tone for the whole show, honest and important, but very strange and trippy, almost silly at times.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, we are introduced to Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman), a clever 19 year old kid who resides with his beloved grandmother Ruth (Jeannie Berlin), who raised him when his parents died. That very night, Jonah hears some noise downstairs in the living room and discovers a stranger, who then shoots his grandmother. He races to her aid but she dies soon after he gets there. Her death, as well as being an emotional, grief-ridden journey for Jonah, turns into a literal journey too…a deep, dark, mind-boggling journey that he starts to wish he had never gotten himself into. It starts with the introduction of Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino), who comforts Jonah at his grandmother’s funeral. He claims to have been in the camps with her, but even this early on, we question his honesty, adding to a strange hunch we start to feel about him right until the end of the tenth episode. But in the meantime, he acts as a role model for Jonah, guiding him on his way and eventually introducing him to a jaw-dropping new way a life. The revelation that there are still Nazi’s living in 1970’s America, and that he is the leader of a group of Nazi hunters who track down and brutally torture and kill Nazi’s.

As a massive Al Pacino fan, I’m a little biased but I can honestly say that in my opinion, this show is one of the greatest pieces of work he has done in recent years. The show itself, whilst silly and somewhat bitty at times (in terms of the flashbacks), is phenomenal and so multi-faceted it is actually kind of overwhelming. The time spent in pre-production, the pinpoint precision used during creation from writing to production is simply astonishing. From the research used when creating the story, to the time the actors spent perfecting their language and pronunciation of German, every base was covered.

Logan Lerman shines, here he has really been given the opportunity to further cement his career, proving just how solid he is at his craft. The fight against injustice and what happens to us as humans when presented with an opportunity for revenge is given a spotlight here, and we see Jonah struggling to adapt to this new brutal mission, he doesn’t take to torturing ex-Nazi’s because 1. The ways in which he is told to kill them is incredibly disturbing and 2. It makes them just as bad as the Nazi’s in question (despite the totally justifiable need for them to be held accountable for their actions). How could you simply overlook the amount of pain these people caused? And the barbaric acts they committed in the feeble vain of their psychotic leader. The confliction is conveyed with such emotion, it’s quite distressing and very heavy to watch. This certainly isn’t a show to binge watch in my opinion, it is doable but the content of the show deserves to be taken in with care and honest perception, as opposed to rushing through it as if it meant nothing.

Although, there are definitely lighter moments, it still manages to convey that laidback beach-bum vibe of the 70’s, particularly the amusing scene in which Jonah and his friends smoke a huge joint at Coney Island. This is followed by a rather trippy scene that involves the trio of friends dancing to the music of the Bee Gees, however strange it may be to watch (I cannot erase it from my memory), it does serve a purpose. As the scene unfolds, he starts to picture his grandmother standing in front of him; he suddenly cannot escape from this nightmare. This results in a haunting image of her wearing those immortal stripes, following him wherever he goes. It is at this point he realises that he cannot get himself out of what he has started, the need for justice for his grandmother overtakes his fear and trepidation.

As the series unfolds, the violence is turned up a notch (and the silliness at times) and things start to unravel in a fast yet slow nature. Some scenes have a major build up, others are unexpected and shocking. A particularly sad scene is when Jonah finds his best friend has been murdered, during a shift at the comic book store that he was supposed to be working himself. He sees his grandmother stood in front of him again, the light of the scene changes subtly, getting darker…showing us that this is the final straw…Jonah is truly a part of the fight. As the episodes go on we get an idea of just how many Nazi’s there are, we are shocked to find out just how embedded they are into society. Whilst this is happening we are given a bit more history about Ruth, how Meyer was tortured by the barbaric Nazi ‘The Wolf’ and Meyer is revealed to be Jonah’s grandfather. This naturally solidifies their bond and creates a nice dynamic that is interesting for the audience to see, Meyer is proud of Jonah, yet he criticises his ‘weakness’ when he fails to kill Travis when given the chance. At this point, it is very difficult to figure Meyer out; we are still asking ourselves if he is good or bad. Fast-forward, and after endless ups and downs, in a spine-tingling twist …Meyer is revealed to be the wolf, much to ours and Jonah’s utter shock.

Moreover, it turns out Al Pacino’s character murdered the real Meyer, changed his appearance (with a little help from a plastic surgeon) and started again in New York. He explains that his story isn’t justifying what he has done, but helping to redeem a sense of goodness. He explains that by living as a Jew, he has realised just how barbarically he had acted back in Germany and that hunting for hidden Nazi’s was his way of finding the light. The cinematography when this scene unfolds is astonishing, just the simple altered lighting in the background, drastically transforms the whole scene and the entire show within seconds. The following scenes are almost Shakespearian, Jonah finally lets go of that very ‘weakness’ that Meyer previously pointed out to him, and stabs the wolf right in the chest. All of our suspicions about Meyer have been confirmed, but definitely not in the way we initially predicted. The acting is incredible, nothing less would be expected from the great Al Pacino himself, it is always thrilling to see him play a villain. As Jonah informs the rest of his Nazi-hunting group the news about ‘Meyer’ or ‘The Wolf’, they agree to stay together and keep on hunting.

The final scene takes us to South America… have you guessed it already? I am usually very astute and intuitive when it comes to predicting content/twists etc.… very early on in a series or film, I did see a lot of foreshadowing in this show, some hints were acted upon, some were red herrings but there was one scene at the end that I didn’t predict until seconds before it happened. And it was the moment we see four blond-haired, blue-eyed boys running from a corn field towards a beautiful big house in Argentina, and upon seeing an old man’s shoes that I finally realised what the ending would be.

Adolf Hitler, alive and kicking in South America, as predicted, sat next to ‘The Colonel’ a.k.a …Eva. Now if you haven’t watched the show yet (in which case you just spoiled the whole thing by reading this), I can see how this would sound silly, but it’s not, it’s deadly serious. I was blown away, my mind imploded at the end there more than any show I have ever seen. The fact that they don’t show Hitler’s face, simply his chin and grey moustache, is what prevents it from being viewed as a farce or a comedy.  Everything comes down to Hitler, the corn syrup, the fourth Reich…it all falls into place. There were obvious hints of course, and the mysticism that surrounds Hitler’s death is still taken very seriously to this day, with numerous conspiracy theories, but the fact that they actually went there is quite thrilling, the kind of shock you expect from a Grade A show.

Overall, this show blew my mind; it is one of the best drama’s I think I have ever seen. I understand the criticism it has created, especially around the concern for it ‘welcoming future deniers’ but this show is trying to highlight just how awful and barbaric the events at Auschwitz were, and reminds us that it should never be forgotten, which is the most important thing.