Going to the cinema, watching a film at home or getting lost in a book are some of my favourite things to do. I don’t read as much as I would like to, but when I have some time during holidays or while I am travelling I just love to zone into the story and out of the outside world. As far as films go, it’s not only watching them that I enjoy. I’ve listened to Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s radio programme on BBC 5 Live for a decade and I find Mark’s rants hilarious. I’ve been sat on buses or trains a few times listening to them and trying to contain the laughter for fear of looking crazy. If you have never come across the podcast, go listen to it! You’ll find this new language and you’ll say things like wittertainment, wassup, wassup, wassuppppp or hello to Jason Isaacs. Yeah, if you don’t listen to them you will be looking at your screen blankly, which is why you have to go listen to them!
Lost in Translation
This film has the power to move people or to bore them to tears. I have heard friends being profoundly irritated the slow pace of the story and the ambiguous ending and others who love the beautiful cinematography, the depth of the characters and its gentle pace. As this is in my top list, you can imagine that I am in the second camp. Even when I really enjoy a film, I can rarely watch it over and over, especially if it is a slow one, but this is an exception. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are both fantastic and give such natural performances.
I watched Before Sunrise at the cinema during the summer when I was 15 and the romantic story line of young attractive couple meeting on a train and spending a night walking through Vienna talking about all sorts of things seemed like anybody’s dream come true. When I watch it now I cringe a bit listening to some of the dialogue, but it still has a big place in my heart. I quite enjoyed the two sequels, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, in which you can see how the relationship evolves between Jesse and Celine. However, although really enjoyable, it is the first that I have seen time and time again.
All the President’s Men
I love a good political drama, especially from the 70s. The Watergate case is fascinating, and if you trained as a journalist like I did, this is a must watch. Whenever I watch it now it makes me reflect on how much the communications world has changed. We are so reliant on the internet and emails to communicate that it looks strange seeing the two reporters, Bernstein and Woodward, sitting on their desk making phone call after phone call and using pen, paper and a typewriter to do their job.
This story also brings some painful memories of my time at university. We had to read the book it is based on and for some strange reason our professor decided that we would have to have an oral exam. Groups of us would go into his office, he would start reading a random page, stop and someone had to carry on with the story! Or he would ask us questions like what did certain character order for lunch when they met someone else. I have never been so nervous in my life! Regardless of this, the book is a fantastic read too if you are into politics.
Pedro Almodovar, the director, comes from La Mancha in Spain, the region where my mum grew up. Whilst we don’t have such drama in our family, the portrayal of certain customs is so spot on that it feels like I’m at home when I watch this. It is incredibly dark but very funny as well, so if you don’t mind reading subtitles I highly recommend this!
As far as books are concerned, I don’t think I own any of my favourites. When I love a book I have a tendency to tell everyone about it and usually lend it to someone and well, how many books have you lent and got back? Exactly!
Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
When I bought this book at the airport I was doing exactly what you’re not supposed to, judging it by its cover. I really really really don’t like chick lit and run a mile from pastel book covers, so when I saw this and read the back I thought I could probably enjoy it. In the end it turned out to be the best book I have ever read, and much more enjoyable than all the masterpieces I had to read throughout school and university. The story spans across several decades and revolves around a Northern American family. There is drama, there are politics, environmental issues, love, hate... there is a bit of everything and it is incredibly well written.
I also started reading Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, which I didn’t like at all and didn’t even finish, but Freedom is, in my very humble opinion, a masterpiece.
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Set in Afghanistan and following the story of Amir, you have probably read this at some point in your life and it has moved you to tears like it did with me. Because this story touched my emotions I find it harder to talk about it than a book that stimulated my brain. It is a beautiful story, very well written that captures how conflict affects the lives of children, how the countries we see in the news are populated by people like you and me, by children who had a life like yours and mine before conflict struck.
Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
Another favourite from my teenage years, this novel by Laura Esquivel was a book I became a little bit obsessed with. It is a very traditional Latin American story in that it depicts a very troubled love story in the context of family dynamics. I wasn’t aware that there was an English translation until five minutes ago, and it has been many years since I read it, but I remember it being full of drama and humour. When I read it I was so devastated that I wasn’t going to know more about the two main characters that I wanted to write a sequel to it, haha! The kind of things that teenagers think!
There are many, many more, but these were the ones that even when rationally I could argue they weren't strictly that good, I have loved them for years.