Borrowed Book Club: Carol

Borrowed Book Club started because my friends and I often pass books around to each other. I love to think about which of my friends my current book would suit, and I love that they sometimes think of me when they read a passage. Here is a review, exactly 250 words, about a book that was borrowed to me. Carol resides on Ffion’s artistically organised bookshelf. She is the Mulder to my Scully.

Carol is novel about falling in love. It’s almost impossible not to read it through a vintage lens, with its vignette burns and autumnal tones of brown and red. Told from the moment shop girl Therese sets her eyes upon Carol, an older woman with a daughter and a failing marriage. It’s cinematic, it’s beautiful, and it’s dramatic. Just like falling in love. Therese is irrational, endearingly obsessive and adorable. There is a part of the novel where she hopes that, as she and Carol drive through a tunnel, it will collapse on them and they’ll be together forever. This is a nonchalant thought, just one of many over-the-top passages that make Carol a little funny. It doesn’t feel like a typical, taboo story focused on anything forbidden. Therese and Carol love each other, this story is nothing more.

Most of the novel consists of a road trip, set in lonely 1950s America, where neither of these women should feel the way they do about each other. Despite all their obstacles – the time, Carol’s husband, and a certain twist near the end – this novel is praised for giving a queer couple a happy ending, something of which today’s literature and media seems incapable. Written in 1952 under a pseudonym by Patricia Highsmith, an author who is more commonly known for her psychological thrillers, Carol is as gripping as any thriller. Their romance is exciting and unprecedented, worthy of a 2015 Oscar-nominated film. And it passes the Bechdel test right away.

ICYMI Review: S-Town

In case you missed this podcast from March of 2017, here’s a review of it to urge you not to forget to watch it.

We love conspiracy theories. The rise of YouTube conspiracy theory videos is upon us, and it’s created a thirst for mystery, which may be quenched by Brian Reed’s gripping and grim account of life in the rural American South. In 2012, the staff of podcast This American Life were alerted to an alleged cover up of a young boy’s murder in Woodstock, Alabama. It is not a surprise that such a premise was taken on to be produced as a podcast – a new genre of true crime documentary has emerged since Netflix’s Making A Murderer. We want a mystery where we have to work out the answer. S-Town could have quite easily taken this approach, but it didn’t. It’s not about the distrustful establishment or a gruesome murder mystery, but about the man who contacted This American Life’s staff: John B. McLemore.

 

McLemore initially appears unlikable, rude and hysterical. He raves about every potential disaster currently facing the humanity, depressing himself with hopeless statistics. Throughout the first episode, one question looms over the audience: is he a conspiracy theorist desperately seeking attention? As Reed investigates the alleged murder of Dylan Nicols, he quickly discovers that not only is there no cover up, but Nicols is alive and well. The podcast could have ended then and there on episode two with no apparent mystery, but even after this deception, McLemore keeps in touch with Reed. They email for three years. Reed’s connection to McLemore grows, as does the audience’s. The mystery returns when a very real tragedy faces Woodstock: McLemore’s suicide. Reed’s reaction is harrowing and raw, shown in the audio of the moment he is told of McLemore’s fate. It’s difficult not to catch the lump in his throat.

 

The following five episodes focus on the life of John B. McLemore and those who are left to deal with his loss. More and more people come forward with their stories about McLemore, creating more mysteries. He was once a kind, funny man with many friends. He repaired antique clocks, making him one of America’s best horologists. His life was one simply weighed down by the bounds of an inescapable, intolerant small town. More than a mystery, McLemore becomes a protagonist. Though he is a real man who once lives, he seems to go through dramatic character development, once we learn others’ views of him. Reed contacts a list of people McLemore wanted contacted as soon as he died, and some of them seem as though they’re talking about a different man altogether. The podcast is a journey through his life, uncovering what led to his untimely demise.

 

The people of Woodstock are unforgettable: the troublemaker saved by McLemore, the ailing mother, the apparent money-grabbing relatives. They seem like characters, each serving a different role in McLemore’s story, with a different perspective on who this man was. Reed’s conversations with these people allow us to understand them and their intentions. By the end, no one is black and white. No one seems completely bad or completely good. However, this understanding solves no mysteries. The most intriguing, if not cliché of which, is the rumour of John B. McLemore’s gold. He owned a great deal of land, and many people in the town believe it is buried somewhere in those acres. Although the mysteries keep appearing, McLemore’s sad fate has an unexpected kind of resolution in the final episode, which is worth the time spent on the series.

 

The lack of visuals could be off-putting for some, especially as found footage is a staple of the documentary genre. Yet the podcast incorporates hours of audio from the others involved in the story. We hear exactly how McLemore and Woodstock sound and feel. It is a candid window into the town. The conversations included involve the audience even more, as though we are searching through hours of audio for clues; we are the detectives. Emotions are presented: despair, anger, deafening silence. All 7 episodes are around an hour a piece, and are perfect for binge-listening while you do anything else – cooking, cleaning or as background noise for that writing. Although, you might want to save yourself a day to listen to it. Once you turn on the first episode, you won’t be able to stop.

Four Thoughts Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Here is a review of Spider-Man: Homecoming in the form of four in-depth thoughts – a movie I would describe as the high school movie of the summer. Sure, it’s Marvel’s superheroes, but it’s such a teen movie! Come on, there’s even a nod to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Zendaya’s Michelle

Michelle is a witty, makeup-free, socially-aware bookworm – but shockingly, this doesn’t mean she needs a Cinderella moment, she’s perfect already. This might be a statement, but I firmly believe she’s the new Hermione Granger that we, and little girls everywhere, need. Her appearance in the film is understated, but each is memorable; from poking deadpan fun at Peter Parker, to her casual outpourings of intelligence, to her desire to stage a protest while she visits Washington. She doesn’t fall into the category of a ‘love interest’ – she’s not some quirky, awkward, nerdy girl. Michelle is her own character, an independent, free-thinking, headstrong role model for viewers. By far, her most fantastic scene is her refusal to admire the Washington Monument, due to it being built by slaves – the matter-of-fact, understated way she presents this revelation leaves her teacher speechless. Zendaya’s socially-conscious attitude has absolutely been carried over to her character, and I could not think of a better person to present this character. If this hasn’t sold Michelle to you, still get excited, because Michelle reveals something in her final scene which will have fans begging for that sequel right this second.

 

The Lack of Tony Stark

Initially, I was worried that this film would be Iron Man 4 Featuring Spider-Man. Though Iron Man’s first film drew $585.2 million at the box office, setting the MCU up and giving us the absolute pleasure it is today, I want to call time on Tony. It’s an unpopular opinion, but Tony Stark is boring compared to most of the MCU’s new recruits, and Iron Man 3 was a careless money-grab with a very bare plot. Thankfully, Spider-Man: Homecoming feels grounded, it’s chocked-full of easter eggs and its characters are lovable. Tony Stark makes a few comical appearances in a mentor-like role. This was absolutely perfect. By keeping him a little more low-key, Peter Parker had more room to develop as a character, rather than feeding an already successful member of the franchise.

 

Spider-Man As a Kind-Hearted Superhero

Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is not motivated by personal demons, a tragic lab accident or fame. He is motivated by his desire to help others. Whether it’s giving an elderly woman directions, or saving the life of someone who has tried to kill him, he always tries to do the right thing. This incarnation of Peter Parker is a great role model for young boys, as he goes against the toxic-masculinity which is so often expected of young men today. He isn’t afraid to be emotional. Peter also has a great relationship with his friends, and he’s a proud geek. Peter should be here to teach kids that working hard at school will get you somewhere, and no one should be afraid of their intelligence. Not only is he smart, Peter is a total geek. He gets excited over building a Lego Death Star, and wears some geeky t-shirts I could only wish to own. Peter also chooses to be grounded, he does not wish to be recognised for his good deeds and he eventually decides to continue being Queens’ resident superhero who helps out as best he can. First and foremost, Peter wants to protect those he loves, and everybody else in the world, apparently. He is a breath of fresh air, a new breed of superhero that we all needed.

 

Racial Diversity

The MCU has been overwhelmingly white for too long. A problem across the film industry is the lack of non-white characters. Marvel is attempting to correct their failures in this department, and whilst we still haven’t had a female led Marvel movie, this film makes strides in racial diversity. In an attempt to reflect Queens as New York’s most diverse area, many characters of different cultural backgrounds appear in both minor and major parts. Jacob Batalon’s Ned is of Filipino descent, but most importantly, he is hilarious. Yet, Ned is not mocked for his status as the geeky best friend: most of his jokes actually come from his relatability, so don’t be surprised when he gains fan-favourite status. Model Laura Harrier is Liz, she’s Molly Ringwald’s Princess, the love interest – but here’s the clincher, she’s smart! Instead of a blonde cheerleader, the popular girl gets to be a smart black woman. Harrier’s Liz and Zendaya’s Michelle are both very important characters for the film industry right now, as neither have been forced into stereotypically black roles. They are not hot-headed racist caricatures. Both girls get to be smart, funny and desirable in prominent roles. The film industry needs to take note – roles can’t be racially typecast today. Though there are leaps and bounds to be made, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a good starting point.

Borrowed Book Club: All The Bright Places

Borrowed Book Club started because my friends and I often pass books around to each other. I love to think about which of my friends my current book would suit, and I love that they sometimes think of me when they read a passage. Here is a review, exactly 250 words, about a book that was borrowed to me. All The Bright Places was presented to me by Lowri, who has endured every feeling I’ve ever had regarding a TV series or movie. This is her fault for letting me sit next to her in our high school science lessons.

All The Bright Places is often compared to The Fault in Our Stars – as is almost every sad YA novel out there. The difference with this book? It’s everything TFIOS should have been. It’s heartfelt, it’s less pretentious, and the focus is on friendship. The couple doesn’t meet and fall instantly in love, instead they support and sincerely understand each other. They are believable. Whereas Augustus Waters is a caricature, somehow wise beyond his years, Finch is genuinely mysterious. The pair are trapped in small town Indiana, but as they explore the surrounding area for a school project, they find that their sleepy town may be interesting after all. Read this book if you’re an adventurer at heart, but you need to open your eyes to what’s around you.

Jennifer Niven’s first YA novel comes with a warning: All The Bright Places deals with grief and bipolar disorder as central themes. I shared this book with a friend who thought that the love interest’s struggle only romanticises mental health issues. This is a complex argument. Everyone’s experience with mental illness is unique to them, where some will empathise, others will criticise. No one novel can get mental illness exactly right, and perhaps it is a device we use too often. However, Niven does not perpetuate the myth that love is a magic cure for mental illness and includes a short essay at the end of the book elaborating on bipolar disorder. She shows an understanding I find difficult to criticise.

Combating My Fear of Flying

The first time I flew, I was seven. We took an eighteen-hour flight with two layovers, to Australia. Never before had I set foot on a plane, and I was excited. Emirates were an incredible airline. They gave my seven-year-old self cuddly toys, blankets, heated towels and a packed lunch. I stayed up overnight, engrossed in a game of Tetris I played on the back-of-the-seat TVs. Twelve years on, I can’t remember most of the holiday, but I remember almost every second of the flight, which I loved so much.

Now, I’m not sure what went wrong.

At age 14, I took a flight to Florida with my family, and I was not afraid. The flight was more basic. I was with Monarch, so there was a lack of heated towels and back-of-the-seat Tetris – not that I cared, I was going to Disneyland! At age 15, I went to New York with my school, without my parents, and I did not enjoy the flight. Taking off made my ears hurt, and landing on the runway filled me with that sense of relief, like you’re holding a breath but you don’t realise until you exhale. I assumed this was because I didn’t have my family with me.

Suddenly, at age 16, on a family holiday to Cyprus, I was scared. The flight was terrifying. I couldn’t look out of the window. What did any of the noises on the flight mean? Why did my ears hurt so much? At take-off, I could have cried. This wasn’t even a long-haul flight. This was where everything changed for me. I ruined the holiday myself by worrying about being on the plane home. Karl Pilkington once said that the best part of a holiday is arriving home. Suddenly, his comically pessimistic outlook was my own attitude. I wanted to be at home.

Though I have been on three more holidays which involved plane rides since then, I have turned down many opportunities. I didn’t want a memorable holiday with my friends when we finished school, because I didn’t want to spend the entire thing worrying. I don’t want to cry about being in a metal box at 39,000 feet. I don’t know why things changed, but I’m sick of my every anxiety preventing me from doing things that I should feel privileged to be able to do.

So now, I’m in the process of getting over this.

It’s a difficult fear to escape, because the only way to face it is to be on a plane. People get over their arachnophobia by holding spiders, but they can so easily get rid of them once it’s happening. To combat this fear, you have no choice but to commit to staying on a plane. I first managed to feel better about flying on my first trip to Krakow. I bought a book in the airport (it wasn’t very good), I got on the plane, and I didn’t look out of the window. I didn’t cry, I didn’t let it ruin the holiday. I spoke about this in my recent post about Krakow, but I believe that this was due to the lack of plane-specific luxuries on the RyanAir flight: no back-of-the-seat-TVs, no blankets, no in-flight meal. There was nothing but the window to remind me that I was on a plane.

My second trip to Krakow was the first time I’d felt comfortable on a plane since Florida. This is where I cracked it. I downloaded two films to my iPad, which happened to be the same duration as the flight. My eyes were occupied by the visuals, so they weren’t drawn to the window. My ears weren’t focused on the noises around me, as I wore headphones. My mind, most importantly, was occupied by the mystery unfolding on the screen. I forgot I was flying. I didn’t feel the discomfort of claustrophobia, or the impending doom of flying. When we were told to lift the tray table for landing, I was surprised that time had moved so quickly. When every flight felt so long and uncomfortable before this point, I was so shocked that this one felt like a twenty-minute train ride.

I know that some people have particular experiences on planes that prompted their phobia, such as turbulence. Distraction might not be suited to those who suffer in this way. Some are comforted by learning how planes fly, because their fear comes from not understanding how they stay in the air. For some, it’s unclear. Because I couldn’t find a specific cause to my phobia, there was no obvious solution. So, I’m not going to tackle it. If distracting myself works, why should I worry about a fear? I don’t fly often, and I’m still not overly fond, but this distraction technique is the key to the way my mind operates.

Borrowed Book Club: We Were Liars

Borrowed Book Club started because my friends and I often pass books around to each other. I love to think about which of my friends my current book would suit, and I love that they sometimes think of me when they read a passage. Here is a review, exactly 250 words, about a book that was borrowed to me. This novel was given to me by Miriam, who once convinced me to eat a whole crème caramel without using my hands.

We Were Liars is a fairly good young adult novel. If you don’t work out the twist ending, the novel must be spectacular. I have friends who felt angry and cheated by the shocking twist at the end, and any book that prompts such a reaction must be impressive. However, YA is usually simple so many people will work out the twist early on – I figured it out on page thirty. This, however, does not spoil the book. I couldn’t put it down after working out the ending as I wanted to know what actions led to this and, ultimately, if I was right. I devoured it in a day. It’s a short, simple, summer read. Set almost exclusively over summers on a private island, the book is perfect for avoiding boredom as you lounge on the beach.

The novel focuses on an entitled, rich, white American family’s perfect façade and a tragedy which befalls them. Good comments are made about racism and class as a character of Indian heritage is added to the family, and isn’t accepted. The use of language in the book makes for impressive characterisation. The narrator’s words are dreamy, unclear and mysterious. It’s murky, as if you’re watching the scenes unfold from beneath the water. A central theme of the novel is greed and its consequences. Suggesting that perhaps we look upon wealth and its outward perfection too favourably – we don’t understand what happens inside that perfect house, which makes the novel somewhat thought provoking.

Baby Driver Review

Movie Rundown is a take on upcoming movies, recent releases and film news. It’s about what’s worth seeing and what’s worth a miss.

Edgar Wright’s first venture into straight-up action is a treat for the eyes and the ears.

Wright is one of my favourite directors, his cornetto trilogy is classic, quotable, and perfectly British – whilst they are predominantly comedy films, they have their fair share of action sequences, never mind if it’s only fighting the blanks in the men’s. I wasn’t sure what the fuss was about with Wright making an action movie, something he had already achieved with his previous comedies, and Scott Pilgrim’s comic fight scenes. Why would Baby Driver be any different?

Baby Driver follows the story of Baby (Ansel Elgort), the young getaway driver of bank-robbery boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). In terms of acting, this film is phenomenal. This is exactly the role Elgort has needed, since his horrific part in The Divergent Series (God rest its soul), he’s successfully broken away from teen heartthrob to a legitimate actor. Spacey is, as always, brilliant. He’s funny, lovable and hate-able. Lily James deserves props, if only for her occasional singing. CJ Jones, as Baby’s foster father, a silent voice of reason on account of being deaf, may be the best of the bunch. By the end, he will have you in tears.

However, acting isn’t the only success of Baby Driver, the music must be commented on. Wright’s previous experience with action-set-to-music comes in the form of Shaun of the Dead’s Don’t Stop Me Now scene. But seriously, this film is as good as that scene is funny. Baby’s need to play music works well with the character’s unique struggle (tinnitus in this case), and is an equally unique take on the post-Guardians of the Galaxy music/movie genre. The bank jobs set to music are extremely satisfying and exciting, if only from an artistic perspective as I may not be the world’s biggest action fan. The music, and the occasional lack of music, set the emotions and tone of every scene so well. This film can’t be missed – nor can its soundtrack!

The film is heartfelt. It may revolve around the exciting, glamorous world of choreographed movie crime, but it is not sugarcoated. Struggles emerge, people are lost. By the film’s third act, no one is safe, and you’re never sure what’s around the corner. Baby Driver was a totally different experience to what I expected, but Wright did not disappoint at all. It’s different to anything he’s done before, because while the film is still funny, it’s predominantly an action movie. Most of the pleasure in this film comes from its adrenaline rush, not its belly-laughs.

This movie was an Odeon Screen Unseen – £5 at your local Odeon to see a movie before general release, but here’s the catch, you don’t know what its going to be. I’ve only seen two bad films in the past two years of going, so I would highly recommend the experience!

Baby Driver is this year’s alternative blockbuster – do yourself a favour and catch it fast.

Borrowed Book Club: Billy & Me

Borrowed Book Club started because my friends and I often pass books around to each other. I love to think about which of my friends my current book would suit, and I love that they sometimes think of me when they read a passage. Here is a review, exactly 250 words, about a book that was borrowed to me. This novel came to me thanks to the lovely Katie.

Giovanna Fletcher’s first novel is a simple love story. It may be predictable, but it’s charming. However, the ultimate message of the novel is not about achieving our dreams through love, instead it teaches self-empowerment. Protagonist Sophie learns that negative situations should not override our ability to do what we love. Though Sophie is relatable, she can be irritating. The twist and the novel’s end feel somewhat rushed and poorly planned, there is no motivation to read the sequel. The characters are somewhat cliché – the shy, anxious protagonist, the lovely old lady and the nothing-but-nice former bad boy. Yet, the novel is nothing to be a snob about – above all else, Billy & Me is homely, predictable characters only add to the comforting familiarity.

Though the novel has a few grammatical errors, certain aspects deserve high praise. The novel’s scene setting – an intimate village and its residents – are portrayed so well that the book’s world is easy to immerse yourself in. The charming little village of Rosefont Hill reminds us how cosy and pleasant life in a small place can be. This book is a perfect read for the journey back home after some time in a big city. It reminds us to love our small homes despite their flaws. So often we are pushed to follow our dreams by escaping the place we were born to do great things, but if home is where our heart is, perhaps we belong there. There’s a lesson we can all learn from Sophie.

Krakow, Poland

I have visited this city twice, but talked about it a thousand times. Krakow is so deserving of praise and it’s my favourite travel experience so far. If you asked me to be there tomorrow, I’d go back. Considering I’m not a huge fan of travel, this is a statement.

IMG_9256My first trip to Krakow was a gift for my eighteenth birthday from my parents. Not exactly a huge wine glass with a glittery “18” plastered on the side, their gift was perhaps a little bit different. Regardless, we left on March 29th on a Ryanair flight in the late afternoon. I’ll admit now, I’m afraid of flying. The whole experience terrifies me. I don’t like the way the pressure makes my ears pop, I hate all the noises on the plane because I have no idea what they mean, and airports are intimidating. Not to mention, you’re suspended thousands of feet in the air, with no escape. It’s claustrophobic.

However, my experience with Ryanair was ultimately a good one. The flight is about two hours and a half, so you don’t need an in-flight meal or those back-of-the-seat TVs that play the same two episodes of The Simpsons on loop until it drives you mad enough to fall asleep. In fact, the lack of luxuries only available in the air put me at ease. Combined with the short journey, it felt like a train ride. It was casual. So, if you’re not a fan of flying, this trip isn’t too bad. Although, the second time I went, I downloaded both the Da Vinci Code films to my iPad, and discovered that they’re almost exactly the duration of the fight – I totally forgot I was on a plane.

Anyway, Krakow was beautiful. We stayed in Antique Apartments just off the Main IMG_1774.JPGSquare, on Artist’s Square. They have a scenic view of the square, and are walking distance from everything great in Krakow – bars and restaurants are so easy to get to. There’s a great Italian next door called Pino, which I would highly recommend. The apartments are also attached to a bar/restaurant next door called Scandale Royale. They do very nice cocktails, and serve breakfast, which is included with your stay. Antique Apartments were also very helpful in organising trips to Wieliczka Salt Mine and Auschwitz. All you have to do is enquire at reception and a mini bus picks you up when you schedule it. Transport to and from the airport is also provided by the apartments for a very small fee.

We spent our first day wandering around the city. You sort of have to do the markets, because they have some very cute things. Their Christmas decorations are beautiful. When I returned the following December, the Christmas markets were filled with gorgeous decorations. We took a walk up to the castle, a good portion of which you can wander around free of charge. It is quite pretty, a nice walk too. Upon wandering back, we were starving – so we visited the restaurants around the square to see what was appealing. Turns out, it’s all good and very cheap. If you can only try one food whilst you’re there, it has to be meat pierogi. They’re these amazing golden parcels of dough with meat inside. They’re like a dumpling, or a pie without the messy crumbly pastry.

We first visited Wieliczka Salt Mine and I get it, a salt mine doesn’t exactly sound like a IMG_9319riveting day out. But it is incredible. The salt mine is filled with intricate sculptures made entirely of – you guessed it – salt. Many of these are religious symbols, and every one is quite beautiful. As well as sculptures, there is a Cathedral down there. Made of salt. An actual cathedral, where you can get married. It’s amazing. I’m quite claustrophobic, but the areas underground are so spacious, they didn’t phase me. However, there are a ridiculous number of steps, which is not very accessible. On the way back up, there is a lift, honestly, the most terrifying lift I have ever been in. They shoved about 10 of us in this tiny thing and it was a scary ride up, but quite a funny memory.

IMG_9379Auschwitz was the second place we visited, and was as sombre as you would expect. At first, I was against visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau, as I thought they immortalised the atrocities of the time. But Auschwitz is not about Hitler, it is an important monument standing to commemorate every victim of the Holocaust. It serves to remind us that such vile acts should never happen in our world. You are guided through the atrocities that happen there, educated in a way that cannot be done without seeing. It is horrific, but it’s a must if you are able to visit. A quote sits on the wall of Auschwitz, surveying each visitor, reminding you of exactly why you have come to such a place: “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again” – George Santayana.

Krakow’s City Tours end at the Jewish Quarter, allowing you to tour Schindler’s Factory. IMG_9358This is an ideal experience after the concentration camps, as it is more sombre after you’ve seen that. Schindler’s List is also a must watch before the trip, despite being an amazing film, it is both heart-warming and heart-wrenching. The Jewish Quarter tour also takes you to beautiful synagogues and cathedrals with golden altars. Other areas on the tour include the area surrounding the castle, the main square, and other points of interest in Krakow. The tour takes place in a golf cart, with blankets in case you get cold, and plastic sheets around the sides in case it rains. Audio recites the history of Krakow, and the knowledgeable guides will often tell bonus interesting facts about certain areas. The tours are done privately, with only your group. They are a set price no matter how many people are on it, so they’re perfect for splitting between six on a rainy day.

Krakow’s bars are incredible and inexpensive. You can spend all day there and spend IMG_1798nowhere near what you would spend in the UK. Many of them are underground, quiet with exposed brick walls and very good drinks. Polish vodka is obviously the way to go in this country. A bar we visited, which we affectionately named “Pub Pub”, as it had two signs outside saying “Pub”, served flavoured Polish vodka Soplica, an older brand of Polish vodka. It came to about £1 per shot, and it’s nothing like the terrible alcohol you’d pay £1 for in Britain. There were all sorts of flavours, to name a few: strawberry, mint, raspberry and best of all, quince. We drank the bar dry of that vodka by the end of the holiday. But please, it’s nice vodka, don’t shot it, sip it while you have a chat.

All in all, Krakow is a beautiful, fun, affordable city break, which isn’t too overwhelming if you’re not a huge travel fan. It’s a place you can take at your own pace, and you’ll almost definitely want to return.

Do Mulder and Scully Need Another Comeback?

Fox (the network, not the Mulder) have announced an eleventh season of the genre-defining ‘90s sci-fi show. This run will be four episodes longer than 2016’s revival, which will hopefully leave more room for a comprehensible plot. I expected a revival to bring closure to Mulder and Scully’s ever-complicated story, but the agonising cliff-hanger of 2016’s revival almost ensured that another series was on its way. No matter how agonising that cliff-hanger, no matter what we’re wondering about Scully’s alien DNA, no matter how much we really, really, really want our favourite agents to run off into the sunset together, we should consider whether The X Files should be reopened at all.

When The X Files’ second feature film was released in 2008, it was the ultimate disappointment. Sure, the episodes that focused on Scully’s religious beliefs were interesting given her scepticism. It was fun to see those roles reversed. But it wasn’t fun for The X Files to utilise the scandals of the Catholic church for some confusing mystery. It tried to be relevant, but honestly may have been a little offensive. As well as this, it was downright boring. I’ll admit, I didn’t have a completely terrible time watching it, because I’m a sucker for Mulder and Scully’s fanservice quiet life. But fanservice can’t fill a whole film. I Want To Believe needed aliens, mystery, monsters, especially if it was going to use Mulder’s iconic motto. This comeback appeared to be case closed for Mulder and Scully – they didn’t seem to be coming back, but our love for nostalgia prevailed, and we looked past this wobble.

The X Files’ six-episode revival hit our screens in January 2016. At the time, I had only just started the series’ original run. The old episodes were so brilliant, and I was so desperate to catch up before the final episode aired that I finished the whole thing in a little over a month. When I look back at it, season 10 had two good episodes. One was Home Again, which had a good monster of the week and that emotional attachment we all missed. The other, of course, Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster. If the title wasn’t enough to sell me, it was the writer and director. Although Darrin Morgan has written very few episodes of The X Files, his are undeniably the most memorable. Where the mythology may have aged, Morgan’s style has not. It was quirky, funny and packed with references. Though the nostalgia goggles may have contributed, they certainly did not carry the episode. The other four episodes? Underwhelming.

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to see Mulder and Scully again. Of course I’ll be watching season 11, and maybe I’ll even religiously rewatch the others in preparation, but that doesn’t mean it should keep returning. Above all else, The X Files needs closure, something season 7 tried to bring us. Season 8 and 9 are where The X Files lost its magic because something fundamental was missing: Mulder and Scully’s dynamic. The two agents have to be together, sceptic and believer, chasing the unknown. If we lose that, we lose The X Files. Doggett couldn’t replace them, nor could the actually-ok Reyes. I bring this up because I fear losing Mulder and Scully again, to Agents Miller and Einstein. They are names I had to google, because they’re only memorable as cardboard caricatures of an iconic duo. Einstein is annoying, something Scully never was. Miller is bland, an adjective I couldn’t imagine throwing at my favourite Fox. If these characters replace Mulder and Scully, we’ll only have a worse Doggett and Reyes situation on our hands.

However, there is hope. One man could save this series: Vince Gilligan. As a fan of the show, Gilligan submitted a script to the show, for the season 2 episode ‘Soft Light’. He went on to join the team and wrote some of the series’ best episodes. He wrote the fantastic season 5 comedy episode “Bad Blood”, which is Gillian Anderson’s favourite episode as she so loves to remind us. “Pusher” from season 3 was one of his earlier works, which will be remembered for its tense Russian Roulette scene, as well as putting us off the colour cerulean for the rest of our lives. Gilligan has since moved on to his own successes with the iconic Breaking Bad, and was unable to return for season 10 due to commitments to Breaking Bad’s spin off Better Call Saul. He expressed regret at this inability to take part in the revival, something with which we can all sympathise. If season 11 is to be a success, we need Gilligan back. Besides, he owes The X Files; not only did it give him his big break, but without the episode “Drive”, he would never have met Bryan Cranston, and there would be no Walter White.

When considering The X Files’ track record of an underwhelming return, perhaps we shouldn’t be so excited about season 11. But if the right changes are made, if we see Gilligan, more Morgan, and a lot of Mulder and Scully, it could be third time lucky. Besides, how could we deny the opportunity to watch David and Gillian on every chat show once again. Personally, I’m hoping for an SNL skit this time around.