Carrie (1976) Written by Lawrence D. Cohen Directed by Brian De Palma
This qualifies on my spring list for it being centered around the big finale at the prom. It isn’t cheery, which is what you might expect for a spring-themed film, but wait until you see the rest of the pictures on this list. Carrie stands out to me because it’s a movie about an experience idealized by a segment of the public (high school) and shows it as the horrific thing it has always been for marginalized people. Where I grew up, high school and especially the associated sports have created an elite class of teenagers while the non-white kids and queer teens are pushed further and further to the edges. Carrie’s home life stands out to me here, with a mother devoted to her religious beliefs. Carrie’s mother is clearly a reactionary but, through dialogue, seems to have been bullied. This woman chose to throw herself into a system of belief that resulted in every culture she was terrified of. It’s only through Carrie’s…well, breakthrough that she manages to break the system that beats her down daily. One could argue Carrie goes through a process of renewal, much like the planet during spring. Read my full review here
You might think Dave Bautista, clearly notable in 2017 for his role as Drax in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, would have a more prominent role in this Blade Runner sequel. Instead, he only appears in one scene, but his performance and character are the crucial hooks that get the story going. Sapper Morton is a Nexus-8 replicant hiding as a protein farmer on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Officer K shows up one day and disrupts the quiet life he’s created. There’s such a heavy sadness to Sapper, who just wanted to live their life in solitude. Their quiet conversation leads to a brief but brutal fight. As a result, this scene showcases the depth of Bautista’s acting ability and physical combat prowess, all while putting Officer K on his path of self-discovery.
The cinematographer’s job is one of the most vital in filmmaking. They are tasked with listening to the director and reading over the script to capture what these people have imagined on camera. The imagination is infinite, which means this can be anything from a conversation between two people at a kitchen table to an intergalactic battle. To do this, the cinematographer has to have a masterful understanding of lighting, angles, blocking, movement, the elements of production design, the way an actor appears on camera, editing, and post-production effects that will be added later. The cinematographers on this list are not responsible for all of my favorite scenes in cinema, but they have a hefty body of work which, in my opinion, positions them as masters of the craft. Not every movie they have worked on has been a gem, but the camera shines when they have found the right collaborator in a director.
Brief Encounter (1945) Written by Noel Coward Directed by David Lean
David Lean’s breakout film, Brief Encounter, feels so simple, but within this context, he delivers one of the most complex & realistic love stories ever put to film. Laura is a bored English housewife whose shopping trips to a nearby town provide her an escape from the drudgery of suburban life. She meets the virtuous doctor Alec Harvey through an acquaintance, and an unspoken attraction blooms between the two. Laura starts making her trips weekly to meet up with Alec, sharing a cup of tea and some quiet moments together. They are both married, and this fact looms over their encounters, keeping them from crossing certain lines despite feeling pulled toward each other. There is such a beautiful melancholy to this film, an understanding that attraction doesn’t happen conveniently & there is much about it we can’t explain. The rigid social expectations of the time will prevent Laura & Alec from being together. It may be better that they aren’t. There’s a chance that this is an escape for them that, if they were allowed to consummate it, would lose the magic that the restraint provides. Few dramas today handle the complexity of infidelity & attraction outside of marriage in such a nuanced & thoughtful manner.
Since I was a kid I have loved film music. Like most people my age, the scores of John Williams were an iconic piece of my childhood. The themes from Star Wars, Superman, and Indiana Jones were ever present in my consciousness from a young age. Film music is quite different now, less anthemic and more ambient in many films. My tastes have also changed as I’ve matured. Williams’ work is still incredibly rousing when you’re wanting the sense of adventure but film music is able to reflect so many tones & moods. Here are the composers I find myself listening to the most these days. I’m not a music expert so I don’t really have the vocabulary with which to talk about the intricate details of the form. I just know what I like and want to share it with you.
New years are consistently heralded as new beginnings. It’s silly, really, that the change of the calendar year should fill us with the idea that now is the time to change things. Every day is a chance for a new beginning, not just January 1st. These movies explore what it is to make a first or a fresh start, even if the result is something terrible. The common thread through all the films I feature in this list is their focus on the humanity of their characters, people trying to make sense of an often senseless & chaotic world.
Infinity Pool (directed by Brandon Cronenberg) – 27 January
Possessor was one of the most unflinchingly brutal movies I’d seen in a long time, so I now approach Brandon Cronenberg’s work partially cowering but intrigued. The official synopsis of the picture is very vague, telling us it’s about a couple who are wealthy and young enjoying a vacation at an all-inclusive resort. However, outside the grounds of the hotel is something perilous & violent, a cultural collapse. If this is anything like Possessor, expect zero sentimentality from the director and visual effects that will melt your brain. Stars Mia Goth and Alexander Skarsgård.