Written & Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Western civilization is decaying and all at its own hand. You cannot look to a foreign enemy emerging over the horizon. The collapse of the world order we’ve known since birth was a slowly festering movement of austerity and neoliberalism that is choking the life out of hundreds of millions. The authoritarian British government brutalized its citizens in Northern Ireland and Scotland quite habitually in the 1960s and 70s. This came in the form of militarized police actions, pushing back against unions, and fighting against a higher quality of life. This is the world we enter in Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher, where garbage is piled up on the streets and canals are full of toxic chemicals. This is squalor inflicted on working people by the wealthy & powerful who want to bring them to heal. It’s hard to find hope in such a living Hell.
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Perfect Blue (1997)
Written by Sadayuki Murai
Directed by Satoshi Kon
I have tried to get into anime throughout my life, and I just don’t think it’s my thing. When I was in college, I had friends who would regularly consume Dragonball, Inuyasha, or whatever else was on Toonami. I ended up watching several films & parts of shows like Vampire Hunter D, Hellsing, Attack on Titan, among others. I can say that I usually enjoy feature films. I love Akira and Metropolis; I think they push past many tropes that generally don’t click with me in this particular animation genre. Of course, Miyazaki is fantastic, but he exists in a category all his own. Perfect Blue is something beyond anything I’d ever seen before, an anime with clear links to some of the best psychological thrillers of live-action cinema.
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Days of Heaven (1978)
Written & Directed by Terrence Malick
When I was a child, my dad had a bookshelf in his home office. This was the place I first stumbled across the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I never finished (it took me a year to complete Fellowship, and admittedly I was ten years old, so maybe not quite old enough for Tolkien’s prose?). However, another book on this shelf highly interested me even though I didn’t have much context for it, The Good Old Days: They Were Terrible by Otto Bettmann.
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A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
Written & Directed by John Cassavetes
If you have never watched much outside of classic American cinema, even the supposedly envelope-pushing independent film industry that came to prominence in the 1990s, you will likely be turned off by A Woman Under the Influence at first. Writer-director-actor John Cassavetes broke the accepted forms & structures of filmmaking in ways that critics were highly divided at the time of their release. Some could see the brilliant mind at work while others became quickly frustrated at scenes that linger and editing that doesn’t follow the smooth narrative flow we have become accustomed to. I can imagine your average MCU stan wouldn’t know what to make of these pictures at all. They don’t provide easy morals, and their characters are so complex you find yourself always seesawing between frustration and sadness over them.
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