With a new year comes a new batch of writers! Check out their favorite movies below.
Nithin - Django Unchained
Written and directed by the one and only Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained follows the journey of Django (Jamie Foxx). He's a former slave who, accompanied by German bounty hunter Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz), hunts the South’s most wanted criminals and attempts to free his long lost wife, a slave on Calvin Candie’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) infamous plantation. The movie runs for 2 hours 40 minutes, but I was never bored at any moment. The slowest and possibly most boring point in the film is right after the title card where all we see is Django chained to a few other slaves as they walk across the country. However, the scene that proceeds is easily the best scene in the movie and, in my opinion, the best opening scene of any movie. At the most basic level, Django Unchained has a very simple plot, but what makes it special is Tarantino’s blending and packaging of cinematic elements into a completely fulfilling whole. The violence is definitely beyond gruesome and the liberal use of the n-word is most definitely offensive. It’s not for everyone. But, if you can look past the violence, you will find the heart of the film. In Django, we see a man doing all that he possibly can to reunite with his wife. In Dr. Schultz, we see a man that helps another, a black slave in the heart of slavery, simply out of good will. Like all Tarantino films, Tarantino’s expert handling of the undertones and themes are what make this movie more than just a bloody action movie about revenge.
Written and directed by Spike Jonze, Her is a story of the romance between a divorcee and an AI Operating System. This bold romance/sci-fi concoction allows for a nuanced exploration of the relationships and interactions that define us. The writing juxtaposes the humor and despair of such a relationship to effectively communicate the true value of companionship. Jonze’s able direction and the wonderful color palette used make it an inviting journey for the viewers. Joaquin Phoenix gave a subtle and heartfelt performance as the protagonist Theodore Twombly but I found Scarlett Johansson’s performance to be simply extraordinary. I strongly believe it should go down as one of the great voice-acting performances of all time. Personal preferences aside, the talented ensemble helps wonderfully convey the depth of the writing. Ultimately, Her takes us on a journey of understanding not only the protagonist but ourselves.
Matthew - Uncut Gems
This movie checks every box: Adam Sandler, NBA, NBA gambling, edge-of-your-seat tension, menacing Eric Bogosian, Idina Menzel in anything other than that painful Geico ad, sports radio pope Mike Francesa as Sandler’s bookie! The Safdie Brothers wrote and directed Uncut Gems, and it feels like a sibling film to their other New York crime-caper, Good Time, in that both use a specific camera style to bring the viewer inside the life of the main character. The basic premise is that Adam Sandler is a gambling addict who receives a gem (an uncut one) that gives Kevin Garnett special powers during the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the 76ers. Chaos unfolds from there, aided by an incredible Eric Bogosian performance. On first watch, he is just Sandler’s foil in the movie, but on rewatch, his character has a newfound depth as he is struggling to fit in with this tight-knit New York Jewish family. In the same vein as Good Time, Uncut Gems has a distinctly New York aura. The city acts as a supplementary character to the film, in particular, the hectic Diamond District, which Sandler’s character is an integral part of. Although maybe not for everyone, Uncut Gems is a suspense-filled trip into a gambling addict’s life that enthralls just as much as it excites.
Sam - Table 19
I first watched Table 19 on a flight by accident. The cast and poster intrigued me enough to continue watching it as my in-flight entertainment, and little did I know it would turn into my favorite movie. I've debated whether to place Table 19 as my favorite movies against Aaron Sorkin films (The Social Network, Moneyball) and classic comedies (Wedding Crashers, Horrible Bosses 2), but ultimately I had to choose the Anna Kendrick lead comedy. Starring Kendrick, Craig Robinson, and Lisa Kudrow, Table 19 manages to handle various storylines of its oddball cast with cohesion and intrigue. Each character’s arch is treated with a respectable amount of depth while still centering on the main storyline between Kendrick and Wyatt Russell. I personally enjoyed the film since it’s fun seeing characters I know come to together in a light but funny setting. There are a few surprising plot twists that I was happily caught off guard by that further added to the intrigue. I feel that the tone and cast work well together into a fun viewing experience. A $5 million dollar budget and stars from hits like Friends, The Office and Pitch Perfect doesn’t seem like it’d have an intimate feel, but Table 19 has a certain quaint and indie feel to it that’s refreshing. The overall setting and tone of the movie works really well with the mainstream actors. The 2017 movie was released with little fanfare and is definitely a sleeper, but the story moves at a good pace, revealing more and more about each character as the film progresses.
Logan - It’s Such a Beautiful Day
I have a strange relationship with memory. I’m able to remember inane and useless information like the names of every Pokemon, or the exact date and location I made specific purchases, yet unable to hold onto the names of the people in my classes or what I had for lunch today. Following It’s Such a Beautiful Day’s brief 62-minute runtime, I was rocked to my core in a manner no film before or after has been able to replicate. Originally produced as three short films, all of which are connected and chronological, the movie follows a man, Bill, who just happens to be a stick figure, who is experiencing a memory disorder. Throughout the film’s duration we see his perception of the world around him, and the memories of his life flow into and out of each other, distorting him until he can discern no difference between the past and the present. I would talk about the ending, but I’d rather not ruin it, so I’ll just say that it left me in shambles, and I physically could not watch a movie for 3 months after my first viewing of it. I could talk for hours about the film’s brilliant usage of deceptively simple animation to convey some of the most soul-crushing and harrowing themes I’ve ever seen put forth by a film, its implementation of absurdist and black comedy to provide levity to the themes at play, or how incredible the film’s director, Don Hertzfeldt’s new movie is, but I think I need to wrap up. For anyone with a free hour, an open mind about experimental animation, and a few tissues on hand, I hope that you decide to check it out. It’s kind of a really nice day.