Wildlife (2018)

This movie typifies why I decided to compile a catalog rather than a list: sometimes I can’t make a blanket recommendation because movies such as this take just the right audience in a certain mood to enjoy them. (Recall the pacing of Leave No Trace.) The reputation of both the talent assembled for this collaboration and natural beauty of the setting (Montana, USA) proceed them. In fact, the natural landscape is a character in itself.

Despite my initial disappointment with the simplistic plot and sparse dialogue, I found myself still thinking about this film days later. (Similar to Melancholia in that regard.) What struck me were the parallels. The stark, clean, perfectly symmetrical sets embodied the innocence and idealism of both the family portrayed and the time period in which they were living, which faded and tarnished over time. Moreover, the scenery– particularly the wildfire smoke– is simultaneously literal and symbolic of a seemingly inevitable catalyst.

Spinning Man (2018)

There’s surprising depth to this Thriller that borders on Post-Modern Noir about a philosophy professor who lives in an endless loop of moral ambiguity rationalized by the principles that led him to push the limits of his questionable decisions in the first place.

Shall We Dance? (1996)

I was disappointed when this Japanese homage to an American classic (starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) was remade into an American film. How many more movies by the same name to we need?!

In the Japanese version, a businessman grows tired of his life as a corporate drone. Each commute home from work he passes a dance studio. From an excursion born of curiosity grows an obsession. Besides the lure of American culture, in which couples publicly display affection for one another, there is s excitement and glamor in playing out a famous movie scene. Eventually, the businessman’s wife realizes her husband is blossoming into a passionate and lively man, who is obvious fond of something/ someone other than her. Once she discovers the object of his attention she’s both relieved and frustrated; they should grow together not apart. Instead, he rather than share his new hobby with her, he’s kept it as a mistress.

The most recent iteration was no doubt a marketing ploy to profit from the success of its Asian counterpart. The message that Western filmmakers hoped to promote is completely opposite of the themes that can only make sense in the context of Japanese culture and thus completely loses all ability to spark discussions about tradition, cultural appropriation, etc. And no, casting a Latina-American as a lead doesn’t count for anything.

Monsoon Wedding (2011)

“These are my children and I will protect them from myself even if I have to.”

Event planning somehow brings out both the best and worst in people as the reality of life alteration sets in. Arranged marriage is no exception. The universally relatable emotions and timeless human struggles were all handled with such delicate precision that traditional cultural elements unique to India, such as the spectacle of music and decorations, are able to shine through. Every relationship faces disappointments and every family has failures it would rather not acknowledge but the true beauty of life is in unconditional love, which is a deliberate choice from which reflexive emotion flows.

“Whether our parents introduce us or whether we meet in a club what difference does it make?”

Grace of Monaco (2014)

No one in the world could’ve predicted the whirlwind, history-making romance of England’s Prince Harry to American actress, Meghan Markle. It is to this movie’s advantage that its particular depiction of an historic marriage, to which the modern one is being compared, predates Harry and Meghan’s engagement; it was crafted to document a historic anomaly rather than contrive comparisons that may or not serve any particular purpose other than marketing.

To give up everything to take on another identity is no small feat but a woman in love with a man who both respects and adores her is gaining so much more than she’s giving up, which is still easier to accept in theory than to demonstrate in practical application! Even more so for American actress, Grace Kelly since the Royal Family of Monaco is more than mere figureheads.

By the early 1960s, the threat of invasion by the French overshadowed whatever dreamy notions Princess Grace may have had. At the urging of her spiritual advisor, who was also a close friend and confidant, Princess Grace redefined romance, which not only saved her marriage; it helped to unite the country, who had embraced her as their own. Suddenly, she became a leader, who could use her influence to provide stability and courage in the midst of uncertainty.

Alone in Berlin (2016)

Based on a book by an author given access to old Nazi files, this film depicts of a brave couple, who simultaneously rediscover themselves—and each other—as they enter a new phase of marriage. The couple’s grief over losing their son to the war leaves then disillusioned with the promises of the Hitler’s regime. The two become one team, who circulates messages of resistance to Nazi power. Rather than churning out yet another heavy-handed treatment that risks turning the entire era into a cliché, the context of this film is a time when people were not only under duress to turn a blind eye to national atrocities but hadn’t grown up in a culture where people—particularly the working class, women, etc.—had ever been allowed personal opinion.

Production initially lost traction due to lack of funding so the decision was made to film in English. Though the supporting cast is mostly German, the main characters are played by non-German European actors, which ended up giving a sense of collective responsibility. It feels more like a call to action meant to inspire viewers to consider their own roles in life, rather than inviting them to be spectators of a bygone event. At no point does the story lag or do the actors overact, which would be easy to do. Its ultimate triumph is in the integrity and courage of two seemingly insignificant individuals, who chose to stand alone together.