Congratulations on getting into Oxford. I bet you’re excited to arrive, eh? Well, let me stab your excitement through the face, with my ‘Guide to Five Movies that Sort Of Explain How Your First Term at Oxford Will Be’.
1.) Animal House (1978) (or Project X (2012), if you just fluked your A-levels)- Your arrival in Oxford will see you being greeted by people who genuinely think it’s cool to ‘ironically’ dress up like John Belushi, in a toga. You’ll get dragged to bops and student nights and you might drink a bit (don’t worry, this’ll be over by first week). Any expectations of genuinely cinematic quality revelry ought to be dispelled at this point though: you’re more likely to see the Junior Dean being sick outside Park End than you are to hook up with the Dean’s alcoholic wife. For those of you who are still shell-shocked at finding yourself at Oxford and are struggling to believe in your own intelligence, you might like to try John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt (2008). After that, anything will seem like an upgrade.
2.) American Beauty (1999)- This one has an element of wish fulfilment to it, I’m afraid. Exhausted after years of hard work in a pointless job, Kevin Spacey blackmails his boss into a settlement (see also, Edward Norton beating himself up in Fight Club). This is the second state of mind you’ll experience at Oxford, one that might be called ‘Holy Fuck These Essays Are Hard’ Syndrome. On the plus side, your work crises are unlikely to result in you being molested by Chris Cooper and, subsequently, shot through the head. These might seem like little victories, but you’ll learn to take what you can get. For those of you who are coming with 8 A*s, you can watch A Beautiful Mind (2001) or something. I don’t know, you probably don’t watch films.
3.) The Shawshank Redemption (1994)- ZOMG, your school friends aren’t the only friends you’ll make in your life! You might be as shocked to discover this as Andy Dufresne was, when, after arriving in prison, he embarks on one of cinema’s greatest interracial, and subliminally homoerotic, friendships. At this stage in their lives, your new friends are unlikely to have the gravitas of Morgan Freeman, and everything they say, in those first few weeks, is likely to be so unbearably pretentious that you’ll have to resist slapping them repeatedly in the face. Still, if you can stick it out, there’s some metaphorical buried treasure and a Mexican beach waiting for you at the end. Although you’ll definitely have to wade through a mile of shit to get there, which brings me to…
4.) Blue Valentine (2010)- The most unrelentingly bleak film of recent years, this seems like the perfect movie to illustrate (and compound) your inevitable Fifth Week Blues. In this scenario, you are Michelle Williams and Oxford is Ryan Gosling. You have suddenly decided that the fire of romance has died and, now that he’s going bald and spends all day painting walls, you want to leave and do something else with your life. There will be broken hearts, there will be tears, there will be gratuitous amounts of oral sex. WARNING: This is not a good film to watch when you are genuinely depressed at Oxford. Save it for the aftermath of a difficult break-up.
5.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)- You might think that where you’re going will be like Hogwarts, but it isn’t. You might think that you’ll learn all sorts of interesting new things, but you probably won’t. You might think that you’re a wizard, but that’s probably a sign of dangerous mental illness. By the end of your first term, however, you’ll have managed to work out where all the moving staircases are (there are none, this is the real world), how to avoid a giant, three-headed dog (lecture/essay/tute combo) and how to steer clear of The Forbidden Forest (Wahoo). Just like Harry Potter, you’ll be scarred and orphaned (hopefully not), but that glowing feeling in your bosom, well Champ, that’s the feeling of acceptance. Also, you’ll pretty quickly discover which of your tutors is Voldemort. Good luck with that.