6. Moonrise Kingdom – Summer With Monika
Sometimes, it’s worth taking on a similar story with a different vibe. Moonrise Kingdom is a cute and fun take on two young kids running away from society and finding a hidden Shangri-la of their own. What do these kids have to be existential about? That’s part of the charm: they are overwhelmed at such a young age, perhaps as a testament to the younger generation of today (despite Moonrise Kingdom taking place in the 1960’s).
Moonrise Kingdom takes place around ten years after Ingmar Bergman’s own adolescent flick Summer with Monika was actually released (1953). Monika is much moodier and less funny in every way shape and form. The two leads are older as well, but they also yearn for a life away from their hometown (in this case, it’s Stockholm).
Moonrise Kingdom has a society that wants its youth back, whereas Summer with Monika is less forgiving, as society welcomes the departure of the new generation. Watch both back-to-back for both a cheerful and a dismal look at a juvenile perspective of existentialism.
7. The Shape of Water – Donkey Skin
The most obvious film to place before (or after, depending on your preference) The Shape of Water is Beauty and the Beast. Surely, this latest Best Picture winner is a modern rendition of the old fairy tale within a nuclear war setting.
The film is intended for a mature audience, of course, so for a brief two hours or so, we feel like we are children discovering a magical fantasy film for the first time (a feeling that may usually escape us in our older years). Instead of taking the easy road, it’s time to pair The Shape of Water with a lesser-known film.
Donkey Skin by Jacques Demy is a musical (Demy directing a musical? Say it ain’t so!) that is also a retelling of a fairy tale (in this case, it’s of the 1695 story Donkeyskin). If you think Water is twisted, well, get ready for the super weird Donkey Skin, where a princess has to flee a kingdom in order to avoid being forced to marry her king father; she ultimately wears the skin of a donkey to hide herself. Both films are a bit bizarre, but please allow them to put you under their spell, and it will entirely be worth it.
8. Spotlight – All the Presidents Men
So many journalist films are similar in tone (and this is coming from someone who is a major fan of them). Spotlight—the quiet-toned pick that snuck its way to winning Best Picture in 2016—is a retelling of the journalist team that revealed the extent of the pedophilia cases hidden by the Catholic Church in Boston (and, ultimately, the world).
While the film boasts great performances, Spotlight is mostly reliant on its source material to do its work, and that’s why it succeeds so greatly. We don’t need intense music or dynamic editing to emphasize the story here, because it speaks volumes already. Almost fifteen years after the real events happened, Spotlight still hits hard.
Similarly, All the Presidents Men also didn’t wait too long to showcase the story of the revelations of the Watergate scandal. Only four years after The Washington Post began its investigation on the peculiar events happening at the Watergate complex (and three years after the Post’s article), the film is boldly current with its depictions of how the proceedings went down. Similarly, the film contains stellar acting (including an Academy Award win for Jason Robards in possibly his bet role ever), but the bulk of the film’s rage and fury comes from its source material.
9. The Tree of Life – Baraka
The Tree of Life has a plot, despite what many naysayers might conclude. We witness the fight between nature and nurture within a 20th century American household from the eyes of an accomplished man reflecting on the turmoil between his father and himself.
Much of the journey is a visual-audible surge of beauty. We take in the stunning imagery and earth shattering music as a means of experiencing a spiritual journey. It isn’t a documentary, but it is an ascension into another dimension. Baraka, Ron Fricke’s acclaimed artful documentary, is completely plotless.
Like a modern Man with a Movie Camera, Baraka coasts through many images taken around the world (and not just one general location like the former film) and allows us to come up with an interpretation for what we are witnessing.
Like The Tree of Life, Baraka is a visual masterpiece that emphasizes on its aesthetics to pull its audience in. If Baraka is a success, there is luckily the sequel Samsara that you can keep the marathon going with. Once you get familiar to gorgeous cinematography, you can never witness too many great examples.
10. Under the Skin – The Man Who Fell to Earth
Many publications have expressed an adoration for the art house science fiction film Under the Skin (Taste of Cinema here features it quite often, actually). If you haven’t watched the film yet, you might not know what you’re in for. This ethereal, eerie film depicts a different take on an alien visitor walking amongst humans as if they were one of us.
The more the film sludges along, the deeper into the unknown we dive. We end up questioning everything being featured by the time we reach the conclusion; luckily, the film’s nature allows us to conclude many of our own thoughts ourselves.
This seems like a strictly unique film, but it goes hand-in-hand with Nicolas Roeg’s very similar classic The Man Who Fell to Earth. Instead of Scarlett Johansson working against-type, we have David Bowie in his first (and possibly best) acting role. Instead of having an alien that preys on humans in some sort of way, the alien in this film is trying to bring back resources (mainly water) back to his original planet.
Both films show our world through an outside perspective, and our own habitat feels very foreign to us; you may also leave both films being very dubious about the humans that walk amongst you on a daily basis.