Breaking My Silence
I feel a renaissance emerging...
It's been over a year since my last upload to JG Review. For those who have been with me long-term, this gap was surely unnerving--frightening, even. But fear not. I'm back now, and I probably owe you all an explanation. You see, I was pretty quiet throughout the majority of 2021 and '22. Aside from coverage of the 2021 BFI Flare Festival last spring and a rogue 'Spencer' review last November, it's been radio silence across my platforms. But I haven't been idle, dear reader. Rather, these past 18 months have been some of the busiest and transformative of my life. Let me take you through it...
It all started backstage at the O2 Arena--no, really. I was visiting the venue as part of a backstage tour last year along with my Aunt who had gifted me the experience. It was not just an incredible tour but a much-needed day off from my retail job. After covid emerged at the end of my undergrad journey and ruined the global economy, I found it pretty difficult to get employed. Giving up on a corporate venture, I turned my skills toward an athleisure store's stockroom and worked full time in the back of a shopping centre throughout the 20/21 pandemic era. It's not just that it was exhausting (10pm finishes followed by 6am starts weren't uncommon), it's that the uber-masculine sports scene simply isn't really my vibe; as one of my best friends pointed out, "James working at [redacted] is high camp." So, as me and my aunt explored dressing rooms graced by the likes of Madonna in the back-end of the O2, it felt nice to re-connect with a bit of culture.
It was during this tour that me and my Aunt turned our attention to the topic of my postgrad--or lack thereof. I was due to begin a Film postgrad at the University of Glasgow in late 2020, but when covid emerged in March I realised it wasn't the best time to move across the country completely alone and spend thousands of pounds on a course I probably wouldn't be able to study in-person. I decided to defer early on in the first lockdown, but during it I realised that Glasgow might not be the city for me. I thought, then, to apply to Manchester. I knew I'd love the city life there and Manchester University has one of the best Film postgrad courses in the country. But there was a nagging thought in my head--what about Cambridge?
I'd interviewed for Cambridge when I was 18 as a prospective-undergrad, but I was wildly underprepared for the process. I was rushed into applying by my sixth form's Head of Year after she noticed my AS Level results made me eligible, but I hadn't signed myself up for the voluntary 'Oxbridge Application Training' scheme my school had already been running for my more ambitious classmates. The result of this rush was disastrous. I spent the entirety of both of my interviews cracking very bad jokes with the hopes of charming my way in; I realised this wouldn't work when one punchline caused a lecturer to actually tut before turning to his notepad.
Ever since then I'd been a little frightened by the idea of Oxbridge, but after a few friends from undergrad had been successful in their applications my Aunt convinced me to take the leap. So I did. I wrote out an application. And while I was having a bath in March of '21 I received an acceptance email that has certainly changed my life.
I moved to Cambridge that October and fell completely in love with life there. I met the most incredible people, was taught by brilliant professors and submitted projects that I'm still super proud of. It's funny, really, because I arrived in Cambridge feeling like a grown-up. I was 23, two years older than the postgrads who hadn't deferred or taken a year out before their undergrad, and I suppose I felt like I was arriving as a fully formed version of myself. I couldn't have been more wrong, though. Not only did my year at Cambridge stretch me academically more than I'd been prepared for, but it also challenged me personally in a way that triggered huge amounts of growth and self-discovery. My first relationship pushed me to wholly own my lovability and queerness in a way I'd never really needed to before, and now that I've fully settled back into myself following the controlled chaos that Cambridge provided, I feel more comfortable in myself than I ever have done. I feel more authentic, confident and grounded than I did when I started my postgrad and - as cliche as it may be - I feel close to myself for the first time in a while.
Now, with an under and postgraduate degree under my belt, I can confidently say that the true benefits of the University experience aren't the diplomas, but the life lessons you'll learn in those high-pressure microcosms of studies and young life. Still, I am incredibly proud of all the research I carried out as part of my course, and I'm hoping to publish abbreviated versions of my assignments soon here on JG Review. I got to write about some of my favourite films like WALL-E, God's Own Country and Call Me By Your Name, and even invented a few technical terms that - unlike 'fetch' - might just catch on...(just wait until I tell you guys about the 'meta-poor'). My thesis is something I'm particularly proud of; it was coined 'Establishing the Emergent ‘Leading Twink’ Archetype in Hollywood Cinema' and attempted to do exactly as the title suggests. I'll probably try and post a chunk of that too.
At the end of my year in Cambridge I finally managed to attend the Cannes Film Festival. It was an interesting trip, given it's ill-timing against the backdrop of my academic deadline schedule, but it was absolutely magical all the same. I was originally supposed to attend the Cannes Film Festival back in 2020, when me and my flatmate discovered we were accepted into their '3 Days at Cannes' accreditation programme. Unfortunately we were quite quickly anchored to our Dalston student flat, and Miss Rona put a stop to our l'aventure. Luckily, we were re-accepted in '22, and I was beyond grateful to receive funding for the trip from my Cambridge college, who provided me the resources to fly out.
I only managed to see one film there (long story), but it was spectacular; Moonage Daydream premiered at Cannes at a Midnight screening, at which the director rocked the red carpet dancing to the documentary's eponymous hit. The accredited arrived early and walked the red carpet in our most stylish garms (there was a no-picture policy, but I did manage to nab the pics below). Upon entry, we were seated between a band of giddy film critics and two extravagantly adorned beauty queens wearing sashes proclaiming their joint-title of 'Miss Economic World'. To be fair, if I'd won 'Miss Economic World' I'd never take my sash off either.
It's almost disgusting how much money and wealth is on display at events like this. People stroll hotel bars in gowns you'd expect to see on a red carpet, and men with weathered faces stand with their younger, high-heeled beaus unsure whether to stare into their whiskey, the eyes of their date or at any one of the other women who pass them by. It was this element of people-watching I most enjoyed during the trip. There's nothing more thrilling than tooting and booting the designer clothes of millionaires, as you sit in the corner of a five star hotel lobby, with a glass of freshly squeezed tap water and your neck straining against your Moss Bros tie.
A welcome distraction from dissertation drafting.
In the six or so months since I departed Cambridge I've been equally as busy. I've started a new job which I'm quite enjoying and have spent plenty of time recovering from the post-masters exhaustion. I thought I'd go immediately back into blogging, but truth be told I wasn't sure what to write, or whether I wanted to. Reviewing films seemed redundant, and I haven't had much time to spare what with all the busy-ness that London tends to provide. I've invested lots into JG, but JG Review has gone admittedly overlooked. I suppose what I'm saying is, I'm currently not too sure where JG Review is heading. It's been my baby for over eight years now, and I don't want it dying anytime soon (the prospect of tenth anniversary merch is honestly too enticing--tote bag, anyone?). Maybe I'll end up posting more little updates like this, or more general rambles as to what I've been watching that aren't limited to the format of a 'review'.
I'll keep you all updated as I go, I suppose. And I promise I won't leave it so long next time... :^)
Lots of love, as always,
your friendly neighbourhood JG Review