There isn’t a student in the world who doesn’t like binge-watching movies or TV series whenever they have some spare time on their schedule. Streaming services like Netflix are more popular than ever with hundreds of new titles coming out every year. Sometimes, watching them is just an enjoyable pastime but at times it could be a transcendental or life-changing experience that we never forget. We all have our favourite genres and actors, but for youngsters, movies are more than just about having fun. They are often the first glimpse into a real-world that forms their judgments, values, and perceptions about how our society works even if they can also be misleading sometimes.
Our fascination with cinema art starts at an early age with watching classics like Quo Vadis or Gone with the Wind, but it was the 80s and the 90s era that really turned us into movie fanatics. Some of the best of youth movie titles were produced at this period, which got a cult following, thus becoming the must-see movies of a decade. We all relish The Terminator, Pulp Fiction, or Stargate, as well as blockbusters like Independence Day, Jurassic Park, or Brave Heart. These titles made our childhood great, creating a habit of watching at least one movie a week, and our obsession just grew from then on. It also inspired some students into pursuing cinematography, acting, or screenwriting as their future career.
Movies are magical experiences and many of them motivated us into learning more about cinema, by reading essays on movies or doing research on our favourite directors, actors, and their careers. Reading about their lives can be as exciting as watching their movies, and there are numerous essay examples at https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/movies/ for students to enjoy. These essay examples on movies offer in-depth analysis of your favourite titles plus most of them come for free, so use the opportunity to expand your knowledge of cinema art. Those who fell in love with the cinema world have found an unlimited source of joy and a good time. Another reason why students are so obsessed with movies might be the fact that they have time to read essays or watch so many of them while studying.
We all know that college is a time of growing up, getting to know yourself, or having mind-opening experiences that define who you are. Visiting student youth film festivals may play a big part in that process, and we often depreciate film influence on society or young students in particular. Students relish comedies or coming to age films that celebrate college life like American Pie, Old School, or the 22 Jump Street series. Even dramas like Good Will Hunting can make them relate to the main characters or their issues or concerns. These titles make them feel young, free, with their whole life in front of them, with limitless possibilities awaiting them around every corner.
Do not think that the Hollywood industry doesn’t keep tabs on what young people like these days, as they carefully adjust their scripts to fit their preferences. The movie script is not just a piece of paper, but a money-making asset that reflects each new generation and its world views. All those topics or summaries that millennials find interesting these days will find their way into Hollywood scripts or Netflix TV shows. Some protest bad influence film can inflict on our youth like celebrating power, narcissistic behaviour, or excessive violence used in some films. Those same arguments are thrown at any kind of interactive entertainment but there is little proof that a bad movie does any more damage than just wasting your precious time.
We can argue about the impact of film on society, especially the bad influence on our youth, but movies do more positive things for our kids than we give them credit for. They offer a glimpse into the world, educate them, and provide endless hours of fun and joy. Perhaps, they also provide a way of dealing with frustrations, especially for teenagers who deal with some heavy emotions. The list of topics that movies deal with is limitless, but most of all they provide comfort for students who love nothing more than binge-watching their favourite shows. Studying at college wouldn’t be the same without the Friday night Game of Thrones marathon with your friends, but don’t forget to ace your exams before enjoying your movie weekends.
It’s A Sin—Russel T. Davies’ recent record-breaking miniseries for Channel 4—is the first major British drama to deal explicitly with the AIDS crisis. But there is a wealth of fiction, film and drama that has explored HIV among gay men and queer communities, both at the time and, like It’s A Sin, looking back from a time when HIV is no longer the diagnosis it once was.
The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels is a revelation: after a diagnosis of AIDS, a young man returns to rural America from New York, where he reconnects with his family and faces up to small-town homophobia. It is difficult and startling, like most of these works, but has a wondrous heart. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai and Tim Murphy’s Christadora both explore a network of friends and families in Chicago and New York, respectively, as lives are ravaged and ruined by HIV. They both deal simultaneously with 80s and 21st century storylines, too, examining the legacy of AIDS on their communities.
David France produced a documentary and accompanying book, both called How To Survive A Plague, which does a brilliant and thorough job recounting the history of AIDS and associated activism, primarily in America. The first history of AIDS in America, And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts, is an interesting historical text, but problematic in many ways, not least its reliance on a patient zero narrative, attempting to trace the arrival of HIV in America to a single individual. Richard A. McKay has tackled this issue head-on in Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic, described as “myth-smashing revisionist history at its best.”
In terms of contemporaneous writing from the late-80s and early-90s, I can’t not recommend Close to the Knives by David Wojnarowicz, his “memoir of disintegration,” that beautifully marries mourning, rage, and poetry; it was rereleased by Canongate in 2017 with a new introduction by critic Olivia Laing. Sarah Schulman’s incredible memoir, The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination brings to life the Lower East Side and how it changed during the AIDS crisis, roughly from 1981 to 1996. Later this year, Schulman is releasing a political history of ACT UP—the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power—one of the most important and impactful international AIDS activist groups, which Schulman was personally involved with.
The best British writing from the AIDS crisis that I’ve come across is by filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman: At Your Own Risk is part memoir, part polemic, which savages Thatcherite policy and institutional homophobia. His diaries from 1989 until his death have also been published in two volumes, Modern Nature and Smiling in Slow Motion, both offering meditations on art, recording the development of his peculiar and exquisite garden in Dungeness, and documenting his deterioration from AIDS. Blue, his final film, a single static shot of a vivid blue with a voiceover documenting his illness, is essential viewing for anyone interested in this period of history. Jarman also directed the Pet Shop Boys’ music video for their single, It’s A Sin, from which the show takes its name, which is well worth a watch and demonstrates Jarman’s exceptionally creative talent.
For anyone who was particularly enchanted by Jill’s story in It’s A Sin—#BeMoreJill trended on Twitter after the show aired—this year saw the publication of Ruth Coker Burks’ memoir, All the Young Men. A young mother in the conservative South of the US, she looked after dozens of men infected with HIV and dying of AIDS, at a time when they were often abandoned by their families and even by the medical community. She kept her story secret for years, out of fear of repercussions to this day within her deeply conservative community—but it’s a powerful and necessary piece of memoir.
There are many important and celebrated plays about HIV/AIDS: Angels in America, for example, or The Inheritance. HBO made a miniseries of Angels in America back in 2003 and the National Theatre’s 2017 production, which won multiple awards in London and on Broadway, is available to stream now via National Theatre At Home. The National has also programmed Larry Kramer’s A Normal Heart for later this year—the first major play that dealt with AIDS—which will hopefully come to fruition.
120 Beats Per Minute is a phenomenal French film about the work of ACT UP in Paris: it’s deeply moving and true to life, having been developed in collaboration with activists involved at the time. It’s also incredibly sexy—one of my criticisms of It’s A Sin was the lack of safe sex depicted, the erasure of eroticism after the characters were diagnosed with HIV. Philadelphia was the first major film to deal with AIDS and is an interesting historical work, but is not without its problems. Dallas Buyers Club, a similarly big-budget, Oscar-winning movie, tells the true story of Ron Woodroof and touches upon some of the specific issues faced by those living with HIV with brutal realism.
We lost a generation of artists and creatives to AIDS: Robert Mapplethorpe, Keith Haring, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, David Wojnarowicz, Peter Hujar, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Leigh Bowery, David Robilliard, David McDiarmid—the list, sadly, goes on and on. For more information and resources, check out Visual AIDS, an American charity that originated the red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS awareness and runs an annual programme of events for World AIDS Day, entitled Day With(out) Art: “Visual AIDS utilizes art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists, and preserving a legacy, because AIDS is not over.”
The Terrence Higgins Trust do brilliant work providing education and support for HIV and sexual health around the UK. “Don’t let the ‘AIDS’ of It’s A Sin be your view of HIV today,” writes Fraser Wilson from the Terrence Higgins Trust. “Because we’ve come a long way in the fight against HIV since then and worked too hard, with too much still to do, to be taking even one step backwards now.”
There are some wonderful HIV-positive writers and poets working today: I want to mention Danez Smith and Jericho Brown, both incredible and award-winning poets. Brown won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection The Tradition, which includes the stunning little poem ‘Cakewalk’—it starts, “My man swears his HIV is better than mine, that his has in it a little gold, something he can spend if he ever gets old…”