Lost in Translation (2003)
Written & Directed by Sofia Coppola
There’s time in life where you become vulnerable to ennui, the sense of listlessness. From when you are a child to an adult, you will periodically reach points where you question what you are doing and where you are going in life. What compounds that ease would be to feel disconnected from your surroundings, unable to communicate how you feel with others. In this time of social distancing and mandatory isolation, these feelings can be heightened. We don’t know what next year will be much less the next day. Sofia Coppola crafted a story of two people in this state, trying to make sense of life and find a direction.
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The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
Directed by Rob Epstein
Intersectionality is a word you might hear going around these days. This is the concept of recognizing how people represent multiple identities or how a political issue intersects with various communities and identities. In the United States right now, it’s become time to look at how issues like climate change and a lack of health care have become intersectional issues. The people first affected and most dramatically traumatized by climate change are and will continue to be low income and non-white people. Climate change becomes an intersectional issue, not just merely about cleaning up pollution but acknowledging that our society has allowed groups to become more vulnerable than others.
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World of Tomorrow (2015)
World of Tomorrow – Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts (2017)
Written & Directed by Don Hertzfeldt
Don Hertzfeldt is a revelation in the world of contemporary animation. I thoroughly enjoyed his film It’s Such a Beautiful Day and wasn’t sure what The World of Tomorrow would be like. I was astonished. This is a fantastic animated piece that goes deeper than most live-action films would be willing to do. Profoundly deep thoughts are uttered during both of these short films that should resonate with an audience. Yet, Hertzfeldet was able to balance this with genuinely hilarious moments of comedy.
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Written by Akira Kurosawa & Shinobu Hashimoto
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
This is a classic, and Akira Kurosawa is a legend. But you might be wondering how this film qualified as a Hope in the Midst of Darkness entry. It’s a pretty bleak movie that relies on the unreliable narrator trope. This leads to a relatively dark interpretation of humanity by the characters in the framing device. I am here to argue that Rashomon is an intensely optimistic movie that is attempting to overcome the audience’s assumed pessimism. It’s also a film masterpiece and a piece of cinema whose influence continues to ripple out into movies today, across the planet.
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Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Written by Giuseppe Tornatore and Vanna Paoli
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
Cinema Paradiso did a lot of things. It garnered a lot of attention for Miramax, who distributed the film in the United States. By winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture and helped revive Italy’s faltering cinema industry which had once dominated cinema with the New Wave films. When you watch Cinema Paradiso, it feels like a template for audience-pleasing Oscar movies to come, but you have to remember the movie wasn’t made with those pretensions in mind. One thing it did not do was bring its director, Giuseppe Tornatore a large amount of attention, but it kept him working even today.
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While the larger world seems to be bathed in darkness these days I decided to do a small marathon at some point this year with films that don’t hide from the bleak parts of life but showcase how hope can emerge from such circumstances. Some of these are films I’ve seen before, some I never have. This will be the first collection of movies under the banner of Hope in the Midst of Darkness. As I learn of and remember more films that fit the moniker, I’ll return in batches of five or six.
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Written by Horton Foote
Directed by Robert Mulligan
Author Harper Lee died in her sleep on February 19, 2016. The preceding year had seen the publication of her second novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” a text steeped in controversy and dubiously released to the public. HarperCollins had received a copy of the manuscript after Lee’s lawyer had found it while appraising the writer’s assets in 2011. Accusations were made that the lawyer had coerced and abused an elder, Lee’s health and mental state were said to be in poor condition in her latter years. The state of Alabama found these charges unfounded, but doubts still remain as Lee has consistently stated she had no additional novels to publish since Mockingbird. Since Lee’s death, more information has come to light that Watchman was an earlier draft of Mockingbird, but the damage had been done. Despite this abuse in her final act, Lee will still be remembered as the author of one of the seminal books of the 20th century, which became a critically lauded film two years after it’s publication.
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