I love going to the movie theater—I love queuing up for popcorn before the movie, I love the way audiences unanimously agree to give the screen their undivided attention, and I love hearing the excited murmurs before the lights dim. At the same time, there is something equally special about viewing a movie or TV show within the confines of your room or home, preferably wrapped up in a blanket and sprawled out in the most socially unacceptable posture possible.
For me, the location matters less than the restorative effect of movies and TV shows. Whenever my mind gets crowded with thoughts, I can always count on a good movie or TV show to offer me a fresh perspective or to inspire and re–energize me. As spring break approaches, the days seem to lengthen, work starts to pile up, and the frenzy of midterms season nears its climax. We hope that our TV and movie recommendations can provide a starting point for you to recharge over the break, or, at the very least, escape reality for a little bit.
In this week’s roundup, we celebrate an array of films and television ranging from comedy to drama, from the blood–curdling Possession to the heartwarming Our Beloved Summer. Whether it’s immersive storytelling, witty commentary, or extravagant costumes that draw you in, we’ve got you covered.
–Cindy Zhang, Film & TV editor
Love it or leave it, there’s no denying that Possession is a wild ride. It’s the story of a divorce, if divorce came with a splash of blood, a sex–crazed paranormal creature, and the odd murder or two. But that’s underselling the extent of Possession’s descent into madness; the sheer intensity of this two–hour feature will shock even the most hardened horror fans.
And while there’s murder and mayhem aplenty, it’s not the buckets of fake blood that will stick with you. Instead, the movie’s palpable sense of unease, of danger and uncertainty at every corner, will leave you tossing and turning. The dialogue, which mixes stilted, eerie lines with primal screaming (courtesy of Isabelle Adjani) unsettles at every turn; even something as benign as a character sitting in a living room takes on a fever pitch in this nightmarish cult classic. Add Adjani’s no–holds–barred performance as Anna, the unhinged young divorcee, and you’ll have one of the most powerful, if polarizing, horror films ever made.
Whatever you take away from Possession, you’ll be marked by the cult classic long after the closing credits. And good luck falling asleep!
–Irma Kiss Barath, Arts editor
Hayao Miyazaki films have been a constant throughout my life, remaining just as intriguing to me now as they were when I was a young child. To me, Spirited Away is Miyazaki’s greatest masterpiece—its plot is imaginative and outlandish, yet cohesive and compelling. Each frame is animated with a painstaking complexity that makes it impossible to peel your eyes from the screen, no matter if it's your first or hundredth watch. The film tackles themes like love, identity, and greed through the story of Chihiro, a young girl who finds herself working in a bathhouse for spirits. So much more can be said about Spirited Away, but in short it's an adventurous and visually immaculate viewing experience I’d recommend to all.
–Jessa Glassman, Arts beat
What a Way to Go!
What a Way to Go! is a must–see for anyone who likes camp, costumes, crazy stacked casts, and witty socio–economic commentary. The film stars Shirley MacLaine as a young woman whose husbands (played by Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, and Dean Martin) keep dying in strange accidents, leaving her richer and richer. The twist? This isn’t a Kiss of the Spider Woman saga—she’s miserable as she loses the men, often to greed and materialism. When you check out this oft–forgotten camp classic, note the hallmarks of those working behind the scenes: Watch for some of Edith Head’s most extravagant costume work and Comden and Green’s hints at metafilm in their last screenplay.
–Julia Polster, Film & TV beat
I’m a sucker for British black comedies: the politics, the blistering irreverence, the gratuitously phallic language. And Julia Louis Dreyfus is the gift that keeps on giving. With Veep, you get to have both. What should be a group of narcissistic, Machiavellian characters—whom I wouldn’t trust to tie my shoes, let alone run the nation—is brought to life with such wit and humanity that I can’t help but root for them. The ensemble’s comedic repartee is mesmerizing. They make me wish I had my own staff of ruthless, power–seeking sycophants. Watching a group of adults being paid to prevent Selina Meyer from standing in front of rotating pork while she voices Israeli support is TV gold.
–Rachel Zhang, Multimedia associate
9–1–1: Lone Star
I’ll be the first to say that I’m not one for procedural drama shows, but there’s something about this one that drew me in. Was it that this 9–1–1 spin–off show was based in Texas, where I lived for nearly half of my life? Was it because of the wonderful displays of diversity that didn’t sacrifice quality? Was it because of Rob freaking Lowe? I can’t say.
The show excels in both its ability to weave many stories into one with its episodic storytelling and its character dynamics, especially between its main ship: T.K. Strand (played by Ronen Rubinstein) and Carlos Reyes (played by Rafael L. Silva). It’s rare to see a queer relationship get so much focus in a prime time TV show, and comforting to see a healthy one that doesn’t come off as tokenistic. Likewise, we have the first Black transgender man on prime time television, a milestone that shouldn’t be understated, with his character being of no less importance than his cis counterparts. While Rob Lowe’s character might be a bit too progressive for Texas, that would be the only inauthentic aspect of a largely authentic show.
–Derek Wong, Music beat
Rewatching Modern Family has reminded me of the brilliance of the show. While most of the adult characters were pretty developed from the pilot, it’s been fun skipping through the 11 seasons and seeing how the child actors and their respective characters have aged and tackled new storylines from elementary school, high school, college, and even motherhood. I also love every character despite the ensemble’s large size, which is a testament to the show’s script and storytelling. I haven’t seen a network show as endearing and memorable as this one since it premiered, with the exception of Abbott Elementary, which is gradually becoming a new favorite of mine.
–Jacob A. Pollack, Film & TV beat
Our Beloved Summer
K–drama rom–coms are my guilty pleasure, and Our Beloved Summer is the latest in a long line of K–dramas to capture my attention. Choi Woo–sik from the Oscar–winning film Parasite and Kim Da–mi from the unconventional Netflix favorite Itaewon Class come together in this 16–episode series to bring a compelling tale of heartbreak and reconciliation to life. After a documentary from their high school days goes viral, the protagonists find themselves entangled in each other’s lives, this time during adulthood, filming a new documentary together. The natural chemistry between polar opposites Kook Yeon–su, a fiercely independent workaholic, and Choi Ung, an introverted, free–spirited illustrator, is just the cherry on top to well–written characters and a creative plot. This K–drama puts a comedic spin on the themes of empathy, unrequited love, and friendship, but somehow made me shed an unexpected amount of tears. If you’ve never ventured into the land of K–dramas, this is the perfect place to start.
–Cindy Zhang, Film & TV editor