Across the Universe (2007)

Though the title borrows the more popular lyric/ song title, this film could’ve been aptly named “Nothing’s Gonna Change my World”; the irony being the massive upending of life as everyone knew it prior to the turbulent 1960s. To craft a plot from a collection of music not written as a cohesive narrative is tricky enough; to seamlessly infuse the playlist with a personification of the music and events that equally influenced and inspired each other is a true work of Art. The inclusion of live musical performance, choreography, imaginative cinematography, depiction of history and socio-political commentary take this mesmerizing spectacle way beyond a Beatles-inspired musical.

Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock? (2006)

Provenance—the backstory behind the acquisition of a piece of fine art—is crucial to determining its value. Needless to say, the idea that a trucker could end up with the work of a legend is appalling. This documentary chronicles the story of retiree, Teri Horton, who bought the ugliest paining she’d ever seen from a thrift store so she could present it to a friend, who needed cheering up; it was meant to be an oversized dart board. Eventually, it was assimilated into a collection of junk for her yard sale. An art teacher happened to remark about its distinct style, to which Ms. Horton replied, “Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?” Despite the fact that the iconic artist was known to give away his art, which has been found in many unlikely random places, despite a forensic art specialist verifying fingerprints and analyzed paint samples, no one is willing to acknowledge a foul-mouthed, back woods, blue-collar worker is suddenly in possession of the genuine article.

Tim’s Vermeer (2013)

Who better to orchestrate the collaboration of Art, Science and History than famed magician, Penn Gillette? This film documents every detail of the ambitious undertaking of his friend, Tim, who by reconstructing the creation of a classic painting in painstaking detail, uses an analysis of History to actually rewrite it. It absolutely must be noted that the previously unknown details, which come to light in no way detract from the exquisite beauty of Vermeer’s artistry. Rather, they illuminate both his ingenuity and exceptional grasp of composition.

Manifesto (2015)

This movie has the audacity to be a paradox unto itself.

The filmmaker’s literal manifesto (i.e. declarative philosophical statement) about the nature of Art is embodied by various characters—all expertly portrayed by actress, Cate Blanchett—who represent striking examples of culture influencers. They each, in turn, participate in the recitation of said manifesto. Blanchett utilizes her talent and experience to remain fully in character (voice, pitch, tone, attitude, posture) as different people in different situations while the impassioned narrative continues to demonstrate each point to be made.

I’ve seen vacuous films with breathtaking cinematography. I’ve seen heart-wrenching, gut-spilling performances in the hands of an amateur director like pearls before swine. This was neither heavy-handed in its message nor obtuse in its meaning. Every element was impressively in proportion to every other and each vignette both encapsulated a specific point while contributing to the overall theme.

A thoughtful presentation of ideas that will both challenge preconceived ideas about creativity and ultimately the meaning of existence.