It’s mid August, and summer’s basically over. Here’s a roundup of the films we recommended you should watch this summer.
Lady Bird (2017)
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein
Director: Greta Gerwig
Lady Bird (2017) is a coming-of-age film about 17 year old Christine who lives in Sacramento and studies in a local catholic school. Christine dyes her hair pink, demands to be called ‘Lady Bird’, and detests her town and her school; basically she is every teenager ever! She desperately wants to go to a college in New York and wants to be at a place where culture is. However, her family is facing financial issues which has made Christine self-conscious about her class.
Lady Bird explores the relationship between a mother and a daughter. One minute they are both fighting and screaming at the top of their lungs, and the next they are comforting each other and having fun. No matter how bitter their relation seems, they are, afterall, family. This is shown beautifully during the last few minutes of the film.
The best thing about Lady Bird is that we can relate to it in some way or the other; Christine’s rebillious nature, her strained relation with her mother, and her desire not to get stuck in the same mundane life like her parents. Lady Bird is a decent Bildungsroman that serves as a nostalgic reminder of our own teenage years.
The Panic in Needle Park (1971)
Director: Jerry Schatzberg
Cast: Al Pacino, Kitty Winn
This is not an uplifting film with any sort of message. It is simply a look into the lives of drug abusers, and the relationships and fall-outs that happen along the way. Al Pacino, in his first leading role, plays Bobby, a drug addict and hustler on the streets of New York City. Through a friend, he meets Helen (Kitty Winn). Helen is a shy young woman, and she starts a relationship with Bobby, after he shows her kindness as she recovered from a difficult abortion. Their courtship takes place mainly in dingy apartments, warehouses and on the streets of Sherman Square in Manhattan, so called ‘Needle Park’ because of the large number of drug addicts that convene there. Soon, Helen becomes a drug user herself and even as it draws her closer to Bobby, the life of addiction has perils of its own.
I love this film because of the leading actors, and because of the gritty cinematography. It has graphic depictions of drug abuse, so be advised. But other than that, it captures the tender moments of young love spectacularly, and also does not shy away from showing the less palatable aspects of Bobby and Helen’s toxic romance. Al Pacino is quite the handsome devil here, and Kitty Winn holds her own as a leading lady.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Cast: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Elliott Gould
Director: Steven Soderbergh
After getting out of prison, ex-con Danny Ocean plans to rob not one, but three Las Vegas casinos simultaneously. To further his plan, he and his partner in crime Rusty have to put together a team of 11 criminal specialists. All of them have their own skill sets and talents, each pivotal to the plot. Danny has to convince all these people to help him execute this crazy plan so they can steal the $160 million and split it among themselves. The heist is not easy to pull off and the team has to face several bumps on the way, but no matter what, they must make it work.
The plot twists are clever and the script is hilarious. Everything from the cast to the direction is spectacular. The film has a perfect pace, and never once does it feel dragged. It is one of those fun and laid-back films that you never get bored of, no matter how many times you watch it.
Splendor in the Grass (1961)
Director: Elia Kazan
Cast: Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty, Pat Hingle, Audrey Christie
Love, desire and angst conflate in this classic film by Elia Kazan about two teenagers who fall desperately for each other. Deanie (Natalie Wood) and Bud (Warren Beatty) feel oppressed by the conservative norms of 1920’s Kansas, and are unable to consummate their love; as a result, their relationship becomes toxic. Deanie wants to be with Bud, but Bud is forced to live up to his wealthy father’s expectations. Despite having only the best intentions, Deanie and Bud fall apart. Deanie bears the brunt of it and slowly begins to descend into madness.
This is an engrossing and deeply moving romantic drama about what happens when desire is strictly regulated and not allowed to flourish as the normal part of a relationship. Unable to attain physical intimacy, Deanie and Bud are split apart by societal restrictions. Natalie Wood gives one of the best performances of her career as a vivacious yet sensitive teenage girl who loves perhaps too deeply for her own good, while Warren Beatty is spectacular in his role of the brooding young boy, who wants to become a man in his own right, but is held back by the demands made on him. I would recommend that everyone watch this film. There is nothing quite like it, and you will truly see how this film was ahead of its time; so much so, that it is radical and gripping for audiences even today.
Cast: Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Lorene Scafaria, Elizabeth Gracen, Hugo Armstrong, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher
Director: James Ward Byrkit
Eight friends gather for a dinner party as a comet is passing over them. As the night progresses, strange things begin to occur. What started out as a casual dinner turns into a freaky nightmare.
Coherence delivers a very complicated concept in a gripping way. The less you know about the plot before watching it, the more you will be able to enjoy it. There are clues throughout the film that will help you keep track of what’s going on. You’ll have to watch this film with your undivided attention because every line and every shot is meaningful. The director has successfully created a mind-bender that taps into our fears and paranoia. If you love science fiction and crazy theories, give Coherence a watch!
A Dark Song (2016)
Director: Liam Gavin
Cast: Catherine Walker, Steve Oram
This film falls under the genre of horror, but it is so much more. This is the story of a grieving mother and her dangerous quest to reach out to her dead child. Sophia Howard (Catherine Walker) recruits the help of occultist Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram) to undergo a months-long, strenuous ritual that will allow her to speak to her Guardian Angel and ask for whatever she wants. The two move into a secluded house in the countryside, which they will not be able to leave until the ritual is completed. The film becomes an intense psychological drama about two desperate individuals, experiencing more than a touch of cabin fever, while irrevocably bound by their shared pursuit. As the ritual becomes more and more demanding, and Sophia and Joseph continue to size up each other and question each other’s murky motives, dark forces around them awaken to their call.
I would recommend that you watch this film when you’re in the mood for something that is supernatural yet has a heavy subject matter. The occult rituals are very realistic and quite interesting. This is not a film with jump-scares, but a slow-burning psychological thriller with a touch of something darker.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton
Director: Wes Anderson
The Grand Budapest Hotel is among those films that transport you into an entirely different world. There is a myriad of emotions as the movie combines comedy, romance, adventure, and provides an exhilarating experience to the viewer. It is a tale within a tale, where our narrator Zero Moustafa recounts his life at a time that was much simpler. Not only is the script hilarious, but the way it is delivered by the stellar cast is also perfect. In 1932, Zero is taken in as a lobby boy in The Grand Budapest Hotel by the concierge Gustave H. Gustave also becomes Zero’s mentor so that he can train Zero in a proper manner. When Gustave’s friend dies, he and Zero must go to Putz to pay their respects. However, as they reach the mansion, things begin to take a crazy turn.
The film provides a symbolic depiction of the loss of our culture and the transition of humanity into the mess we are today, which is quite sad. Wes Anderson has done such a marvelous job with the direction, we feel ourselves to be part of the adventure instead of just watching it on our screens.
This is a film you need to add in your list of must-see movies!
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson
In this fantastic Hitchcock thriller, we never even see Rebecca. Yet she permeates every aspect of the lives of all the main characters. A shy, young woman (Joan Fontaine) is wooed by a rich widowed man called Maxim de Winter (Lawrence Olivier), and she soon becomes the ‘new’ Mrs. de Winter. As soon as she moves into his stately home, it becomes obvious the previous Mrs. de Winter (or Rebecca) looms large in the minds of all who knew her, from family friends to the servants. As she tries her best to settle into her new life, Mrs. de Winter realizes that the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) continues to alienate her with her coldly judgmental attitude because she is still in awe of Rebecca. As secrets unfold, Mrs. de Winter realizes there is good cause for the myth and mystery surrounding Rebecca – and it may prove to be undoing of her married life.
Apart from the engrossing plot and characterization, the best part of this film is the setting of the house, called Manderley. With its lofty ceilings and grand furnishings, it makes Mrs. de Winter appeal rather small and lonely. The interplay of light and shadow at critical moments in the narrative is also incredible. If you can get past the old-timey, benevolent sexism of Olivier’s character, this is a classic mystery film that every film aficionado needs to see.
The Shape of Water (2017)
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Set in 1962, the film is a modern-day Beauty and the Beast with magical realism. Alisa is a janitor at a research facility and lives an uneventful life with each day same as the previous. The only close people in her life are her friends Zelda and Giles. She cannot speak, and was found by a river as an infant with mysterious scars on her neck. Her life is pleasantly changed after she meets an ambhibious creature that is brought in the secret facility for research purposes. Elisa, being alone herself, sees the creature for what it is. Instantly, both of them form a bond with each other based on how similar they are; lonely and not being able to fit the societal criteria of ‘normal’. Realizing the danger they are in, Elisa and the ambhibian man must devise a plan to protect themselves. The film interwines romance with other themes and criticizes the society and its standards. The Shape of Water has its flaws, however, the cinematography is captivating and almost magical. Guillermo del Toro has captured the true essence of the film and has created another one of his masterpieces.
The Ritual (2017)
Director: David Bruckner
Cast: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton
Produced by Andy Serkis, this film is everything I wanted The Blair Witch Project to be – and more. After the brutal murder of their friend, four men decide to go on a camping trip through a forest in northern Sweden. Bereft with grief and guilt, the tensions are already high amongst them. They quickly realize that the forest has dark secrets of its own. Lead character Luke (played by Rafe Spall), who feels responsible for his friend’s death, has a series of lucid dreams that take him back to the day of the murder. At the culmination of each dream, the forest draws the men deeper into its murderous embrace; they increasingly get disoriented and lost, feeling more and more alienated from one another. Only Luke is able to see the patterns and realize that a demonic force is at play – and he also understands what it wants. By exploring Luke’s own sense of spiraling sanity because he finds it difficult to escape his trauma as the woods close in on him, the plot combines human nature and horror. Set against the Scandinavian forests, the film carries a sense of impending doom without being melodramatic – and it also features one of the best movie monsters in recent cinema.