A Cinematic Guide to Overcoming Boredom: WestwoodWestwood’s Curated Movie List
WORDS: SYLVIO MARTINS
If you are a self-proclaimed lover of the movies, then you are fortunate enough to live in a time where films are more accessible than ever before. Like with many forms of entertainment, our relationship to cinema has largely transformed overtime. For instance, ‘going to the movies’ was once the occasional treat that involved making an array of decisions. First we had to carefully research what film we wanted to watch, followed by deciding on a venue, looking up showtimes, and then choosing who would accompany us for the occasion. That was the cinematic experience- an occasion. Times have changed and we are now gifted with a much grander selection of cinematic works from our own homes, yet I am still a strong advocate for choosing quality over quantity.
Personal taste in areas like cinematography or genre can differ depending on who you ask; however, a strong narrative is something all movie fans can universally appreciate. Whether that pertains to us identifying with a character’s plight or being captivated by a story’s unpredictable twists and turns, a good story is all it takes to make any movie great. Since we are all finding ourselves sitting in front of our screens more than usual these days, the team at WestwoodWestwood encourages you to find these unique human stories that cinema has to offer us. The following curated list includes a selection of films that are all very different from one another, and span a diverse range of cultures and perspectives. Some are light-hearted and vibrantly colored, while others are more muted, introspective, and experimental. What they all have in common, however, is a character-driven and multilayered plot that resonates with audiences.
Un Prophète by Jacques Audiard (2009)
Taking place within a hostile prison in modern-day France, Audiard’s “Un prophète” tells the story of 19 year-old inmate Malik who finds himself in the midst of a racially divided war. As he struggles to stay neutral between the Corsican mafia and his fellow Arab inmates, Malik must not only decide where his loyalty lies, but also how far he is willing to go to survive. This story contains an exhilarating dynamic energy as it explores themes of identity, race, and morality during a phase of metamorphosis. One finds themselves rooting for this film’s unconventional hero as it actively humanizes the incarcerated, and highlights how humanity’s pursuit of happiness has no notion of race or faith. “Un prophète” is not the typical prison film filled with classic tropes of systemic failures and brutality, but a film that deconstructs the prototype of the Arab man in today’s France, whose will to survive is hindered by societal limitations.
The Royal Tenenbaums by Wes Anderson (2001)
Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums” depicts the complexities of a dysfunctional New York family whose “perfect” image is not quite what it seems. The family of three extremely successful and accomplished children is eventually split up by the departure of it’s patriarch – Royal Tenenbaum. This major event eventually shapes the course of the family’s future, as each child develops their own personal issues after achieving so much success at a young age. Many years later, the family’s patriarch makes a reappearance and fights to regain the respect and love of his own family. What then ensues is a tidal wave of dark secrets, tragedy, and chaos as the Tenenbaums struggle to reinvent themselves after so many years of being fractured. This tragicomedy tells its unusual story in true Wes Anderson-fashion- with a great cast of eccentric, complicated, and flawed characters, and an off-beat yet charming sense of humor. Anderson’s deliberate use of rich color and symmetry in his visuals takes the idea of a family home and enhances it to magical proportions. Every visually striking shot contributes to the perfectly imperfect (and borderline absurd) world of the Tenenbaums.
Girlhood by Céline Sciamma (2014)
While this coming-of-age story depicts many common issues young women face during their formative years, Sciamma’s “Girlhood” explores the unique world of girls living in suburban Paris. The film’s protagonist, 16 year-old Mariemme, must carefully walk a fine line between obeying her abusive brother’s moral code and finding her own identity. “Girlhood” not only gives viewers a detailed look into the lives of African youth in Paris’ working-class suburbs, but also the social structures which they abide by. As Mariemme and her band of girls navigate the big questions of sex, independence, and respect, they resort to theft and fighting to find answers and escape their troubled family lives. Sciamma paints the journey of these marginalized youths through vivid scenes of color, music, and surrealistic imagery that take viewers into the imagination of a lost teenage girl.
All About My Mother by Pedro Almódovar (1999)
Almódovar is world-renowned as one of Spain’s greatest auteurs, but also as a director of women. The entirety of his filmography lives within the world of the female perspective, often touching on themes like identity, love, sexuality, and the taboo. His 1999 hit “All About My Mother” is no exception. The film tells the story of Manuela, a single mother mourning the sudden death of her only son, as she leaves Madrid for Barcelona on a journey of self-healing. She meets a diverse cast of women along the way, and eventually finds the one person she had been searching for all along- the father of her late son. This beautifully tragic and camp film focuses on female companionship in all its forms. It depicts the love of a mother for her child, both biological and adopted. It triumphs sisterhood and the acceptance of all women, including transgender and nonbinary members of society. Furthermore, it touches on issues that were often deemed inappropriate such as religion, sexual identity, and the AIDS crisis. Almódovar uses the power of melodrama to transport us out of our mundane lives and into this flamboyant, female-driven world of love. The film, like all of his classics, is exquisitely shot and vibrant. Its eccentricity exudes charm, and its message is a tribute to everyone who has experienced a woman’s love.
Chungking Express by Wong Kar-wai (1996)
Wong Kar-wai’s psychedelic and tantalizing imagery is usually what first grabs audiences’ attention when watching “Chungking Express”, a film from Hong Kong with an unapologetically off-beat flair. Consisting of two separate stories of heartbreak and loss, the film depicts two cops stumbling into new love affairs largely by accident. These criss-crossing vignettes of chasing romance, although similar in their spontaneity, are nothing alike in their outcome. As the lens takes you through the food stalls, night clubs, concrete plazas, and drug underworlds of Hong Kong, viewers are taken for a convoluted yet hypnotic ride. The film’s infectious energy and neon-lit imagery leave you thinking about those daily insignificant encounters, and the possibility of them taking you somewhere you could have never imagined.
Persona by Ingmar Bergman (1976)
Considered by some critics to be Bergman’s magnum opus, “Persona” is a film that is often left open to interpretation by the viewer. It centers around the relationship between two young women: a stage actress named Elisabet and her nurse Alma. While the cause of her condition is unknown, Elisabet suddenly stops speaking or reacting to outer stimulus. After many attempts to find a solution, her doctor sends the patient and her nurse to a seaside cottage in the hopes that this change in environment would benefit her health. The time these two women spend alone unfolds into a volatile relationship filled with past traumas, transparency, and an eerie silence. As previously mentioned, the film’s experimental nature leaves many wondering about the true message behind Bergman’s masterpiece. There are clues to themes of duality, split personality, and the distinction between good and evil. The film also touches on the topic of motherhood and the psychology behind it. Whether or not you’re someone who is fascinated by the human psyche and all its wonders, Bergman’s eerie psychological thriller is one that will leave you thinking for some time afterwards.
Cinema Paradiso by Giuseppe Tornatore (1990)
Giuseppe Tornatore’s classic “Cinema Paradiso” is more than just a movie about falling in love with the movies. Centered around a famous Italian director’s life, the film takes us back in time to the protagonist’s humble beginnings in rural Sicily right after WWII. Salvatore, or Toto as he was nicknamed, finds a friend and mentor in Alfredo, the local projectionist at the town’s Cinema Paradiso. This eventually leads to a lifelong love affair with cinema that outlasts tragedy, heartbreak, and unfavorable odds. Toto one day returns home, now a grown man and successful director, to revisit the ghosts of his past and see how time has changed his hometown, but also his beloved Cinema Paradiso. Nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 62nd Academy Awards, “Cinema Paradiso” carries a certain timelessness that stems from its beautiful and tender story about a man and his devotion to film. The film’s characters are undeniable charming, while depiction of humble Sicilian life and Ennio Morricone’s iconic score combine to create a special cinematic treat. If you’re looking for a feel-good movie that will tug at your heartstrings, “Cinema Paradiso” will deliver and more.
Head-On by Fatih Akin (2004)
Cahit and Sibel are not a conventional couple, but it’s their similar and tumultuous pasts that draw them together. Both being of Turkish descent, they often find themselves at odds with their heritage when trying to assimilate to life in Germany. The two first meet in psychiatric clinic, where they both receive treatment after failed suicide attempts. After a disastrous first few impressions, the two eventually form a pact to get married in order for Sibel to leave her traditional family. The relationship, although explosive and unpredictable, is one defined by a shared pain and desire for unconditional love. Akin’s “Head-On” intertwines this peculiar love story with the trials and tribulations that many first-generation citizens experience when finding their personal identity apart from their heritage. Not only will this film have you experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions from beginning to end, but your perception of its characters will continuously change as they too transform in their search for happiness.