I had one goal this summer besides getting a job: widening my film horizons. To do that, I had to go beyond movies I usually watch. I never planned on seeing any of these films. I just randomly scrolled through Letterboxd and picked them out. Sometimes it came down to the poster. It’s given me a newfound appreciation for film and I hope to share that with you through this list.
1917: Words like “visual masterpiece,” have been used to describe this film and that's pretty accurate. The story is pretty tame compared to other war films. 1917 is about two British soldiers during WWI carrying a very important message to a British regiment across enemy lines. If the two soldiers don't reach them in time and call off a planned offensive attack, the entire regiment faced annihilation. It’s the cinematography that reels you in. Roger Deakins, the cinematographer behind 1917 captured the distinctive look of the film with long takes, and elaborate camerawork. This was to achieve what looks like one continuous shot. (it’s actually a series of continuous shots cleverly melded together). It’s an immersive experience that very few films can boast of.
No Country For Old Men: Llewelyn Moss, a hunter in rural Texas discovers a grisly scene of dead drug runners. He does the smartest thing in the world and takes a $2 million filled briefcase off of one of the corpses. This puts him on the radar of Chigurh, a deadly killer. Chigurh is the embodiment of chaos. He kills without remorse, looming over anyone that gets in between him and his prey. Like the angel of death, Chigurh will end you no matter how far you run. The suspense he brings to No Country For Old Men is unmatched. If nothing else, witnessing Javier Bardem's performance of this horrifying character will surely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Waltz With Bashir: This is an animated documentary film by Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman's and his quest to remember his experiences during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Waltz With Bashir deals with memories and war. Specifically, how traumatic experiences are suppressed in the face of war atrocities. Throughout the film, Folman interviews various friends that fought in the war. The unique animation style evokes a feeling of illusion; nightmares and memories intertwined with reality. It’s wholly unique. In the end, Folman recalls witnessing and indirectly aiding the Christian Phalange militia carrying out the Sabra and Shatila massacre. It’s deeply disturbing and invokes all kinds of questions about the nature of such conflicts. There is no mistaking Folmans thesis:
wars are useless.
Fantastic Planet: This is the closest thing to a psychedelic trip you’ll ever experience while watching an animated film. Fantastic Planet is a French surrealist Sci-fi film about humans living on a strange planet of gargantuan aliens. In this world, humans are treated like animals that are either kept as pets or killed in the wild. Terr as an infant is captured by one of the giant blue aliens, but eventually escapes into the wild. This film can be viewed as an allegory for animal rights, racism, and certain historical events. The animation is the draw, however. It’s colorful, strange, and borderline disturbing at times. Fantastic Planet speaks to the boundless imagination that goes into filmmaking.
A Night at the Opera: This critically acclaimed 1935 comedy by the Marx Brothers was a bit of a surprise. Black and white films are much harder for modern audiences to adjust to and comedy has changed significantly since the 1930s. However, while there is a romance plot in this film about two opera singers trying to get together, it’s just an excuse for the Marx brothers to just lather it up with slapstick comedy. What can I say, it holds up 86 years later.
By Alpha Bah