Midnight in Paris (2011)

Cameos are fun; even more so when they’re by historic figures, who shaped the world’s Art and Culture. The City of Lights shines brightly in this whimsical tale of a screenwriter, who’s struggling to find inspiration for his first novel. He mysteriously finds himself transported back to the 1920s at midnight throughout the duration of his vacation with his fiance, who doesn’t share his nostalgia. Though heavily romanticized, there’s great fun to be had in recognizing the various icons along with the main character, who’s just as surprised by who he runs into along the way.

Galaxy Quest (1999)

In homage to every beloved Sci-fi TV series, the washed-up cast of an old show is mistaken for their on-screen personas by space aliens, who need their help. As in Three Amigos, they don’t realize what they’re getting themselves into; the faux crew are forced to spoof themselves to save both Humankind and the alien race from an evil warlord. The only catch is there’s no script or reshoots this time around.

Storm Boy (2019)

This realistic story is a blend of healing and compromise. The infusion of a conservation theme is quite different than typical films about animals, which tend to be preachy guilt trips. In this case, a fable bonds grandfather and granddaughter, who have more in common than she realizes, and serves as a bridge between past and present, which is a change of pace from the all-too-common use of random flashbacks to interject backstory. Furthermore, great pains were taken to respect indigenous culture, tradition and, appropriately, wildlife.

Helvetica (2007)

A movie about a font?? The history and evolution of typefaces is surprisingly complex. That we hardly (if ever) pay this one any mind is a testament to its prevalence. Some graphic designers love it; some hate it. But none can deny that its utilitarianism filled a void. Far beyond the fact of its existence, this fascinating documentary explores the nature of artistry and the creative process, the function of design and the impact of marketing, which is equally indicative of and influential to our culture.

The Iron Giant (1999)

This easily passes for a children’s movie given its young main character and sentimental tone. However, the historic context is noteworthy. Long before adventures were musical– certainly before computer animation, cartoons (such as the earliest depiction of the original superhero, Superman) were infused with a wariness of technology, especially in the era of McCarthyism.

This story captures the intrusion of industrial experimentation upon optimistic innocence, a concept lost on kids. Moreover, the military’s response to a creature capable of humanesque emotions will likely be disturbing to young viewers. But for a relatively mature audience, the theme of self-sacrifice will underscore the sweetness of friendship between a boy a robot during a time when the world needed it most. Perhaps it still does.

Meloncholia (2011)

Lush visuals mirror colliding juxtapositions as the classical score provides a romantic– nearly spiritual– quality to a poetic tragedy that unfolds without frantic energy, hence the title, which is also the name of a planet headed toward Earth. The tension lies in a clash of social expectations and emotional reactions rather than in scurrying to save the planet. Its placid unfolding allows the audience to welcome the astronomical event alongside the characters, who– whether anxious, optimistic, or in denial– have no choice but to accept the inevitable.

Marjorie Prime (2017)

Memory is a perhaps the trickiest aspect of the Human Experience. Would technology designed to serve our need for emotional connection (dare I say “closure”?) enhance or hinder the natural process of grief? Far from flashy gadgets integrated into outer space- inspired decor, a glimpse into the not-too-distant future raises intriguing questions about the nature of adaptive technology/ artificial intelligence while challenging our perception of memories. Subtle foreshadowing/ allegory allows the obvious to speak for itself and stunning visuals are almost a distraction but completely appropriate given the main theme.

Grizzly Man (2005)

A fair & balanced tribute to a quirky guy obsessed with wildlife, especially bears. To some he was a troubled soul seeking purpose; to others he seemed inspirational. To a few he was simply a nuisance. No matter how you regard his passion, there’s no doubt he died doing what he loved: living like a Grizzly.

The Little Stranger (2018)

A fast- fading mansion with seemingly temperamental qualities is as much a character as the moody people that pass through its rooms. Both lend a consistently brooding tone without resorting to typical genre tropes (e.g. explanatory soliloquies or intrusive graphic flashbacks). The few instances of blood are preceded by obvious horror to the characters, who see it before the audience; the lack of shock value in such a familiar element serves to heighten the film’s uneasy tone. Periodic disclosure of important details keeps the story engaging, despite being enigmatic, and by the end manages to deliver a satisfying revelation.

The Mermaid (2016)

Revenge is a dish best served salty and wet. Impressive effects enhance a hyper-stylized modern fish tale. With the same wry disposition as Kung Fu Hustle, a young mermaid finds herself in a love triangle as she unexpectedly develops feelings for the businessman she’s been tasked with seducing then assassinating. Consequently, a battle ensues between her aquatic family and her new boyfriend’s business partners, in whose lucrative waters they’re dying.