I thought I’d do a round-up of a few things (books, film, beauty, etc.) that I discovered and loved during the last month.
My favourite book that I read last month was If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin, which is about a young black couple falling in love and their struggles when one of them is wrongfully imprisoned. This is so beautifully written, it weaves back and forth in time, from character to character but I never felt lost in the narrative. The characters are well realised and themes handled delicately, and powerfully. Like most of Baldwin’s work, the issues surrounding racial inequality are unfortunately just as relevant today as they were in the 1970s, it does not feel dated, though it absolutely should. He is fast becoming one of my favourite writers, I had previously read Giovanni’s Room, and whilst I enjoyed the prose, the story and characters did not stick with me in the way they have in If Beale Street Could Talk. I definitely need to start working my way through his back catalogue.
Somewhat related to fiction, my favourite Youtube video of the month was a video Matthew Sciarappa made on poetry, and why you absolutely can read and understand it. He made some brilliant and encouraging points that I think really need to be made about poetry, a written form that is often seen as something only ‘intellectuals’ can enjoy and broke down that very idea. It’s a great and emboldening video, which I hope has gotten a few people to give the art form a go.
February was a pretty film heavy month for me, as I tried to watch as many of the Oscar-nominated films I could before this year’s ceremony, but despite having watched twelve films – which is more time-consuming than you might imagine – I found most of them kind of disappointing. At best, some of them were just enjoyable films, without much to note, at worst, they were Bohemian Rhapsody (seriously why is this film so adored? Is it just because of the soundtrack? Is it because of Malek? Is it because we all wish we could have been at Live Aid?) But thankfully, there were a couple that I absolutely adored.
The first of which is First Reformed, which is about a Reverend who begins to grapple with his own spirituality and past while trying to counsel a radicalized environmentalist parishioner. It is a film about guilt, grief and the many causes and forms it takes and how we deal with complacency in the face of large issues. It is what I would describe as a ‘quiet’ film, it moves slowly but steadily and is more of a character study than a plot-heavy film. That said, I’d really advise not watching a trailer for this as it gives a bit too much away – I went in blind, and I’m so glad that I did because by the time the final act kicked in I was genuinely on the edge of my seat, simultaneously feeling like I had no idea what was coming but also an intense dread that I did. This film is masterful, everything from the way it is shot, the script and the performance from Ethan Hawke; is so well done, I don’t think it is a stretch to call it Paul Schrader’s magnum opus. Think of it as Taxi Driver for modern times – which is to say, if you didn’t get along with Taxi Driver, you probably won’t like this. It isn’t a film for everyone, I think the ending especially will leave some feeling unsatisfied, but for me, the whole film was damn near perfection and an instant favourite.
The second film is The Favourite, a period piece about two women’s rivalry for power and favour from Queen Anne. I’m sure I don’t need to go too much into this, we’ve all heard about it, and if we weren’t all completely besotted with Olivia Coleman before the Oscars, we are now. I loved how darkly funny and odd and tragic this film is, but again, not a film for everyone. I’m genuinely surprised that most of the people who I know who have watched this film didn’t think much of it. I don’t know if it’s because of the ending that it’s throwing people off or people were expecting something… different? Funnier, maybe? I don’t know, it was everything I expected and wanted and more, the only real criticism I have is that the score was too repetitive and began to get on my nerves after a while, but that is just me being picky.
Honourable mention goes to At Eternity’s Gate for containing one of my favourite performances of all time in Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh. He was robbed of an Oscar, that’s all I’ll say on that.
Finally, a beauty favourite of the month was the Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm. This isn’t actually new to me, but I ran out of it in February and replaced it with a sample I had of the Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, which I immediately regretted once a string of painful spots appeared on my chin. I swiftly placed an order to replace my Clinique balm and have been happy ever since. To compare the two (and they are very different products), the Fresh cleanser had more of a gel texture, was difficult to apply and felt more drying in contrast to the Clinique, which turns into more of an oily texture when applied, and never leaves my skin feeling stripped. And it doesn’t break me out. I was a fool to stray away, and I won’t be making that mistake again!
So those are my five favourite things from February, hopefully I’ll figure out a way to tone down the wall of text by next month!