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Regardless of their quality, summer movies are always good for one thing: keeping you out of the heat. If the crisp theater air calls to you, embrace the freedom of simpler times and enjoy the satisfaction of emerging into the summer night after a evening showing and buying ice cream cones to eat on the walk home. Of course, if that isn’t exactly your cup of tea, Netflix streaming is always a click away. In celebration of sunny days and free time, here are five summer releases to catch, and five Netflix alternatives to keep you cool post–finals.
On March 29, 2019, the world of cinema lost one of its greats. Agnès Varda, known as the grande dame of the French New Wave, passed away in Paris at 90 years old. Her long career began in the 1950s and amounted to a rich filmography of both narrative and documentary films. At age 89, Varda was nominated for an Academy award for Faces Places, a feature documentary she created alongside the photographer JR exploring the villages and characters of the French countryside. Varda’s filmmaking, like many of those working within the French New Wave cinematic movement, sought to achieve a documentary realism that melded fiction and nonfiction. Remarkably, Varda’s distinctive, experimental style emerged before many of the most renowned figures of the French New Wave.
Whether you love it or hate it, Spring Breakers has a kind of mythic presence in popular culture for the last decade. Its extreme raunchiness, high–profile cast, and distinctive style are all grounds to remember this gloriously distasteful piece of cinema. It's also a tremendously polarizing film, hailed as both an explosive commentary on morally bankrupt youth culture and a gross trainwreck with poorly written characters and empty–headed superficiality. While unnerving, Spring Breakers is, in fact, a good movie. It makes the conscious decision to subvert the ordinary markers of good storytelling in exchange for a dreamlike editing style full of hypnotic, auditory, and visual resonances. There may be a bounty of things to hate about Spring Breakers but none of them can fully undermine Harmony Korine’s ability to develop such a dark and twisted spring break fantasy.
With the days growing longer and spring in the air, there is no better time to start enjoying Philadelphia outside our academic hamlet here in University City than now. If you’re heading out to Old City for a little distance, any Penn film buff would tell you to drop in for a couple of hours at the Ritz Five, grab some tea and cookies, and enjoy a great movie. However, if nothing among the selection of independent films that are typically playing catches your eye, the Ritz has classic film showings every Tuesday at 7 p.m. When you’re in the mood for a little weekday getaway as the semester winds down, you can catch these showings throughout the month of April.
How exactly do you turn a convoluted, high–frequency trading fiber–optic cable development scheme into a compelling, fast–paced thriller? If The Hummingbird Project is any indication, chances are you can’t. Not to say that the jargon–laden drama with buddy–movie tendencies is an all–out failure, for it hits a handful of high notes and occasionally edges on effective dark humor. However, while some risks do pay off in the end, and I mean the very end, The Hummingbird Project has a difficult time getting off the ground as the true thriller it seems to want to be.
When it comes to making audiences uncomfortable, sometimes movies go beyond the canon of horror film antagonists and confront people with the very worst of their own humanity. In the case of Gasper Noé’s Climax, uses a mind–bending cinematic style that replicates the chaotic, nightmarish experiences of his tormented characters. Climax delivers on a premise that could have easily produced a hollow, superficial film capturing what might happen if a group of people accidentally drinks LSD–laced sangria at a company party. However, the film’s fluid, observational cinematography captures the narrative layers of a world of illuminated passageways, echoing with screams and thumping music, while the film’s ensemble cast act out a terrifying drug–induced fantasy. Climax should have been a terrible film, and though it may be a disturbing one, it is mostly just a gloriously uncomfortable imagining of our most unsavory impulses.
Well–acted, thoughtfully constructed, and odd in all the right ways, Netflix’s Maniac was an elegant return to form when it came to the streaming service’s ever–growing body of original content. Rich world–building and tongue–in–cheek dark humor made this 2018 series a bingeable one, while its relevant underlying themes of alienation in contemporary life ultimately made it a meaningful watch. Maniac is centered around two very different individuals, Annie (Emma Stone) and Owen (Jonah Hill), who each experience mental health issues and monetary concerns that, by one way or another, land them in an otherworldly experimental drug trial. After undergoing a series of hallucinogenic therapies, which, due to a glitch, end up overlapping Owen and Annie’s experiences, the two find ways of facing the underlying trauma at the root of their suffering, forming a bond of friendship along the way. Ultimately, Maniac is concerned with the capacity for connection to heal us, and conveys this message through an exceptionally well–made limited series.
In her senior year of high school, a time when most of us were only beginning to dream up what possibilities the future would hold, Claire Sliney (C ‘21), a former beat reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian, was in the midst of a project that would eventually land her a win at the 91st Academy Awards.
A great film score elevates the best parts of a film without distracting the viewer as the story unfolds. Movies with great music can grab us with one particular song, a timeless and evocative theme or vocal performance that is forever at the hip of the film it accompanies. In any case, when movies have great music, they are all the more equipped to captivate, terrify, delight, or move us to tears. What words alone can’t do, music often can, and thus, some of the most memorable scores are the ones that accompany films about love. Whether the score gently balances the other elements of the film or directly narrates the love story, movies that move us capture the sound of love through their use of music.
When we think about the point at which movies cross over from being popular entertainment to art cinema—the artificial division between the empty genre film and the poetic, slow–moving indie flick—where exactly do we place animated movies? The proliferation of animation as a major film–making medium has been a long process primarily driven by technological innovation. The special effects of classic films like King Kong would not have been possible without the use of stop–motion animation. Early computer–generated animated films, including Pixar’s first feature film Toy Story, have held up surprisingly well despite the great leaps in CGI technologies. In 2018, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse garnered significant acclaim for emulating the visual style of a comic book through computer animation. In short, contemporary 3D animation is nothing less than awe–inspiring. However, in addition to innovation at the artistic and technological level, the medium of animation has been a hotbed for inventive modes of storytelling. Many of the greatest animated films in recent memory have transcended the genres and the audiences that we set on such a flexible medium, using the liberties of limitless visual invention to tell the stories that children hold with them well into adulthood.
With just under a month left before the 91st Academy Awards air on ABC, the scramble to watch as many of the nominees as possible is well underway. For those of us excited to share in the joy and outrage that will inevitably erupt in response to the Oscar results, this is our last chance to catch up on all that we may have missed in 2018. Although the nominated feature films tend to populate theaters nationwide or are available on–demand via streaming services, the 15 nominees in the short categories are often left out of the conversation. While many of these shorts may require screenings at specialty theaters, six of the 15 are available online.
Ah, yes, awards season—one of those excessive American cultural extravagances that people love to hate. For some of us, however, at the very end of this season comes the Sunday night show that we’ve been anticipating all year—the Academy Awards. For those of us who have followed the previous year’s films with intense scrutiny, have set aside predictions based on our knowledge of the Academy’s tastes and our own intuition, and who have become invested in the dozens of players that find their way into the mix, the nominations are perhaps the most compelling aspect of this grandiose operation. The Oscars announced their 2019 nominations this Tuesday, and Street is here to go over the biggest surprises and snubs.
Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma opens up on the gentle sound of soapy water gliding against tile, with abstract waves of foam dancing in monochrome for minutes before the film introduces its central figure, Cleo Gutiérrez (Yalitza Aparicio), a young woman who serves as an in–house domestic worker for an upper–middle–class household in 1970s Mexico City. The camera sweeps the interior spaces of the home around which Cleo’s life is centered, catching glimpses of the many rooms that house the family’s four children. The gentle observation of Cuarón’s camera (the Academy Award winning director also served as the film’s cinematographer and editor) is present in all aspects of the film. Naturalistic editing links moments like threads of memory, with dialogue that is sparse but masterfully integrated into a story that is simultaneously melancholy and hopeful.
Between the flurry of Oscar buzz December releases and the shower of new streamable content ushered in with the new year, winter break was the prime time to catch up on the movies and television shows that will have everyone talking upon returning to the bleak Philadelphia winter. However, if sunny vacations and family obligations kept you from the theater, the remote, or the simple comforts of a night in with Netflix, Street has you covered for all that you missed while away.
The coming–of–age of a LGBT teenager in a religious household is not a premise that is unfamiliar to audiences of contemporary film and television. As the seed of interpersonal and ideological conflict, the religious experiences of those in the LGBT community spur meaningful discussions around identity, family, self–acceptance, and, of course, love. The exploration of how religion shapes the experiences of young people within the LGBT community, and the potential trauma that might entail, can be enormously valuable for all viewers no matter what their background or identity. In recent years, the traditional canon of coming–of–age stories has expanded enormously as LGBT representation in film continues to grow, with many new classics emerging, garnering critical acclaim and stacking up awards. Based on a true story, Boy Erased provides a crucial look at a dimension of the contemporary LGBT experience that many of us forget has affected hundreds of thousands of Americans—the continued practice of conversion therapy, which proves particularly detrimental to LGBT youth.
The opening moments of Can You Ever Forgive Me? reveal a New York City unlike the blue–skied wonderland where writers keen on making it take to the illuminated streets in search of their big break. Instead, we experience the well–worn streets of the Upper West Side through the eyes of the real–life writer Lee Israel, the central figure of the film, who is portrayed with control and sympathy by Melissa McCarthy. After being fired from her job and told off by her agent, Lee is at a loss on seemingly every measurable scale of her life. She’s behind in her rent, her cat is ill, and despite her talent and previous success, she sees no future of her own voice making it to the page, hiding behind the figures she writes about). The gloom and doom she carries with her seems to infiltrate every space she enters, including the bar she frequents given her habit of heavy drinking. Just by chance, Lee happens upon a spirited, charismatic man, Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), who she’d met before, or at least remembered given an alcohol–induced, fur–destroying public urination stunt at a party. Despite their dichotomous personalities, the two bond quickly. However, as delightful as their friendship may be, it is far from the only unlikely spark that sets the film into motion.
There seem to be no shortage of shows for foodies on Netflix—from Chef’s Table to Ugly Delicious, shows that merge cooking and culture are a huge part of the vast array of docuseries available on the streaming platform. The most recent addition to this wealth of colorful culinary adventures is a four part series called Salt Fat Acid Heat, based on the award–winning cookbook of the same name. Samin Nosrat, the author of the cookbook, serves the pivotal role as the show’s animated hostess, who exudes a kind of humility that convinces viewers that they have the power to master the elements of good cooking. As gorgeous and cinematic as Salt Fat Acid Heat may be, there is something uniquely personal about its approach. While watching, I felt like I was part of the adventure, as though I was in the kitchen or the market with Nostrat, who was taking me on a journey to the very essence of flavor.
When handling difficult, disturbing subject matter, a truly affecting film finds a way of addressing the seriousness of its content without spoon–feeding it to the audience. Beautiful Boy is a portrait of addiction, but also an exploration of just how far a family can bend before it breaks. It's about dark matters that seem a little buried by the film’s glossy exterior. There are moments, however, so wrought with a quiet kind of pain that the film transcends its somewhat thin use of dialogue and lack of deep introspection. Instead of following a wholly linear narrative, Beautiful Boy lets viewers look through the eyes of a father who watches his son fall into the merciless cycle of addiction by stringing together a series of moments. What saves this film from wasting its emotional impact is a structure that reflects the patterns of memory, transporting audiences into the headspace of a parent who feels growing dread and helplessness while he watches a person he loves destroy himself.
Looking for ideas for a Halloween–y bad movie night? Maybe something to watch with your boo (pun intended)? No matter what you have planned this Halloween, it wouldn’t be right to end the festivities without at least one scary movie under your belt. If you aren’t interested in hitting the theater, Netflix offers a wealth of seasonally–appropriate fare to have you at the edge of your seat all through the crisp October night. From horror classics to recent favorites, here is the best and worst that Netflix has to offer.
Sweaters, falling leaves, pumpkin–flavored everything—you know Halloween is just around the corner when you can smell the autumn in the air. For film lovers, the change in season means an explosion of Halloween–themed film events in every corner of the city. Here are some of Street’s picks: