an introduction

It’s been about three weeks since I (re)started this blog and I still haven’t taken the time to properly introduce myself. Mostly because 99.9% of the people reading this already know me. But since this weekend was quite hectic, I’m deciding to skip a formal review this week and instead tell you a little about my movie-watching preferences and my current masters program!

MOVIES

It’s no secret to those who know me that my taste in movies used to be atrocious. In fact, it wasn’t until college that I watched such classics as The Godfather, Gone With The Wind, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the original Sleeping Beauty. I still don’t know who or what Rosebud is, though (sorry, film buffs). For a long time, my favorite movie was Rat Race.

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Pure cinematic genius.

Thankfully, I’ve done a lot of catching up over the last few years! I’ve finally seen most of the classics and a decent amount of modern films. And even though the Oscars are basically a glorified popularity contest, I’ve spent the last three years watching most of the Best Picture nominees and trying to make informed decisions about who or what would win. I am still not that good, because I now have very strong opinions on what should win that tend to differ from the Academy — but shout out to the 2016 Oscars for giving Mad Max: Fury Road everything it deserved!

What draws me to movies is the unique way in which they can tell stories. Like other art forms, films are able to use symbolic techniques to represent abstract emotions or communicate hard-to-understand ideas. And while film would not exist without art, literature, or theater, it feels special in the way it can combine all the best parts of different art forms. My favorite movies are ones I can watch repeatedly and pick up new meanings each time I watch. I love Wes Anderson’s stylized films, as well as the gritty sarcasm of the Coen Brothers. I don’t care for Quentin Tarantino.

Now that I’ve spent so much time watching and analyzing movies for fun, I feel like I have a solid grasp on certain concepts and feel like sharing my opinions of certain movies (and TV shows) with the world.

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I also wanted a way to legitimize my time-consuming hobby.

Just for fun, here are my current seven favorite movies, in no particular order. Draw what conclusions you will:

  • Ex Machina (2015)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
  • Anna Karenina (2012)
  • 28 Days Later (2002)
  • Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
  • Gone Girl (2014)
  • The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

MASTERS

God I sound so pretentious up there, let’s bring this back to reality a little!

As I’ve said before, I’m currently in my final year of my masters program in social work. My concentration is direct practice, and my areas of interest include homelessness, adults with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI), alternative treatments for psychotic disorders, and community mental health on a state and national scale.

This year, I’m a member of an assertive community treatment (ACT) team. This is an evidence-based model that provides multidisciplinary treatment to adults with SPMI who have failed other outpatient treatments. So it’s basically my dream field placement.

The classes I’m taking this year will also be focused on adult mental health. Currently, I’m in a class on the psychosocial treatment of psychotic disorders and how to give brief therapy through three different modalities. Next semester, I’ll be talking classes around differential diagnoses and the intersection of mental health and criminal justice, among others that I can’t be bothered to look up because that’s a whole semester away.

WHY BOTH?

Film is a powerful medium through which ideas can be promoted or different points of view can be explored. Mental illness is a highly misunderstood life phenomena, with most mentally ill movie characters being violent, deviant, or unsympathetic in other ways. In this way, film helps promote a stigma against those with mental illness that is already quite prevalent in society.

mental-illness-stigma
via Social Work License Map

Luckily, there are lots of movements around the globe aimed at tackling stigma against mental health, such as NAMI’s Stigma Free Pledge campaign. The only way we can start to erase stigma is to speak up. This blog is part of my contribution to eliminating stigma by critically looking at films and documentaries that address the concerns of those living with mental illness.

I hope I can point out the benefits and detriments of these depictions of mental illness and encourage others to seek out films and other media that show mental illness as nothing more than it is: something that affects, has affected, or will affect either us or someone we love. It is neither a punch line nor a warning sign — it is another part of being human.

I also harbor some dreams of being a documentarian later in life — once I’m friends with enough people in the film industry who can show me the ropes.

I will be back next week with a new post, so stay tuned!