I’ve always loved watching movies. I remember the Pixar golden days in the early 2000s, watching Toy Story and Monsters Inc. weekly and Home Alone every Christmas afternoon. The excitement of new Harry Potter films, which lead to annual family cinema trips. I think everyone feels nostalgic over movies as they seem to arouse the sentimental element of the human experience. I still feel the same love for cinema today – but with a new found and mature appreciation. It seems like I’ve finally figured out what makes a movie Oscar worthy and a piece of art; rather than simple entertainment. To be clear, I adore entertaining films. Films made of fluff and silliness and void of any greater artistic purpose are still valuable because they’re designed to cheer people up. However, now I seem to understand what makes films great. From innovative directing, beautiful cinematography, intricate set design, breathtaking performances – it really is a wonderful art. So… here are some great films I’ve watched recently:
La La Land (2016)
Yes, I know, like you haven’t already seen enough people talking about La La Land. But it is just amazing. My boyfriend and I went on a date to see La La Land during its opening week. He took me to a cinema in Birmingham city centre called The Electric – the oldest working cinema in the country. I feel I still would have loved the film if I’d seen it at a standard Cineworld, but the reminiscent charm of The Electric complimented the nostalgic atmosphere Damien Chazelle was trying to capture.
For those you who don’t know, (God knows how you’ve avoided it), La La Land follows the story of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) a Jazz pianist who’s dream is to open his own Jazz bar. The film shows them attempting to achieve their dreams and how that forms and hinders their relationship. The film simultaneously romanticises living in Los Angeles and shows the struggles of the industry.
The sheer beauty of this film had me completely transfixed. The nod to classic Hollywood, whilst still feeling new and exciting and vibrant. I adored the film’s message and couldn’t help but weep during ‘Audition Song (Fools Who Dream)’ – but maybe my undying love for Emma Stone had some kind of influence. The cinematography had me mesmerised. The colours, the atmospheric lighting and the ‘one-take’ shots made me fall in the love with a city skyline I’ve never seen. Basically, La La Land is just so pretty, like I can’t imagine creating something so pretty, but they manged it. After first watch, La La Land had become one of my favourite films. It’s just something really special.
It seemed appropriate to follow La La Land with Moonlight after the monumental Best Picture fuck up at the Oscars. Personally, I think both Moonlight and La La Land would have been worthy winners, but part of me is glad about Moonlight’s success due to the content of the film. I would describe Moonlight as a film about identity, and how your identity is shaped by the environment you’re placed in – and can you shape yourself? The film masterfully explores topics of sexuality, drugs, hyper-masculinity within the black community and bullying – stories that Hollywood tend to leave untold. I remember reading in an interview that Barry Jenkins (the director) said rather than bringing the hood to the art house, he wanted to bring the art house to the hood; which summarises the film’s vibe perfectly. Chiron is a character the audience cannot help but get attached to. We’re invited into his world and we experience his pain and struggles whilst growing up. Moonlight is a must see and will always be an important piece of cinema.
Shaking it up a bit with a film that wasn’t released in 2016. I first watched Whiplash around a month ago. It has been recommended to me thousands of times but I finally got round to it after watching La La Land, as I was interested to see Damien Chazelle’s other work. I found Whiplash intense in the best way – the close shot of instruments and players, the sweat dripping from foreheads created a palpable energy which was completely consuming. Audience’s are invited to feel Andrew’s need to be the best and seethed at Fletcher’s betrayal. I found myself unable to take my eyes away from the screen, an effect all great films should aim for.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Although released in 2012, I watched Moonrise Kingdom for the first time the other night. I adore The Grand Budapest Hotel and like everyone, find Wes Anderson’s colour palettes gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing. So Moonrise Kingdom seemed like a film I’d really enjoy. Moonrise Kingdom is about two twelve year old kids, who claim to be in love and run away together, which leads to a manic search and ends with the threat of a violent storm. I liked the concept of the film and the themes of innocence, family, loyalty and violence were subtly explored. Anderson’s dry humour, symmetric camera shots, never ending sets and pastel colour choices creates an entertaining yet beautiful film I can’t wait to watch again.
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Out of all the movies I’ve mentioned, Blue Jasmine was the one I watched first. I had to study it for my Dark Comedy module at university which pretty much explains what kind of vibe it is. The film follows the story of Jasmine, a wealthy woman living a New York life of luxury, who moves in with her sister after she loses her fortune. I loved the non-linear telling of the story, the direct contrast between our snobbish and then broken main character. I liked how the plot slowly unravelled, making us trust Jasmine’s version of events less and less. It’s no surprise Cate Blanchette won Best Actress at the Oscars as her performance as a woman who seems to have lost all sanity and perspective is wonderful. Woody Allen may be controversial, but Blue Jasmine’s screenplay is gripping and real, and the film is rather beautiful. 10/10 would recommend.
There’s some film I’ve watched recently and I hope this inspires people reading to watch them also – as they are brilliant. I don’t claim to be an accomplished film critic and this is all my opinion, but I’m hoping I’ll get better with each review I do.
Thanks for reading!