How do you measure a year, 525,600 minutes in your life? Rent taught us that it could be measured in sunsets, cups of coffee, laughter, strife and of course, love. But it can also be measured by change (an engagement or a new job) or at its most filtered, by the algorithm that shows your your most-liked posts on Instagram. #BestNine2016.
But what about in movies?
Movies are as much part of our life as they are an escape from it. In terms of instant gratification, the movies we choose are telling of what we're going through in a given moment. Maybe we're the type of sad that wants to see someone else be happy. Sometimes we just want to laugh. Other times we want to learn something about ourselves or those around us in the hopes of coming away with a deeper understanding of either. In the broadest sense, our taste in movies reveals a little about who we are. But sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar and a movie is just a movie.
So, in honor of 2016, both my best and worst year so far–here are all of the movies I watched for the first time:
1. Adult World (2013)
I watched this on the recommendation of a friend because she said Emma Roberts' character reminded her a lot of me which is...not entirely a compliment. Emma's Amy and I are both aspiring writers, love Sylvia Plath, look up to a writer who arguably peaked in the 1980's (her Rat Billings is my Bret Easton Ellis) and have melodramatic tendencies. Starring John Cusack, Emma Roberts and Evan Peters, it is a reminder that maybe we're not quite as brilliant as we think we are. I watched this about one year out of college and it should be required viewing for every postgrad.*
*I will admit (begrudingly) that I am a lot like Amy and seriously how dare my friend know me this well.
2. Sideways (2004)
I've owned Sideways on DVD for years and then one day, I finally felt like watching it. I knew that it was about wine and somehow made Pinot Noir sales increase but I went in mostly blind. If you want to laugh, watch this movie. Paul Giamatti chugging wine straight from the bottle, sprinting through a vineyard while on the edge of a psychotic break is literally all of us at some point in our lives, although we're probably just having a glass of wine with Sideways in the background rather than on vacation in Napa Valley.
3. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Until this month, I was a member of the marginally small group of people who had never seen Pulp Fiction. I had no idea what it was about prior to watching it, yet I was familiar with some of its most iconic images through some kind of pop culture osmosis: Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta suited up, pointing their guns; Uma Thurman lying on the Pulp Fiction poster with a cigarette in hand; and the dance scene between John Travolta and Uma Thurman. I think the best part of watching Pulp Fiction is after it ends and you can read and understand all of the articles dissecting it. To sum it up in the 2016 slang I started saying ironically but can't stop using: I was SHOOK.
4. The Canyons (2013)
More fascinating than the film itself is the profile published in The New York Times about the making of it: "Here's What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan In Your Movie." There's Lindsay Lohan. The Chateau Marmont. Drama. Vodka. Tantrums. In many ways, she is like a Bret Easton Ellis character: beautiful, petulant and spoiled; has talent but likes to party instead of using it. In many ways, The Canyons is Lohan's perfect last major movie role. In one scene she asks, "Do you really like movies? I mean, really, really, like movies? I don't know, I guess they're just...not my thing anymore."
5. The Paperboy (2012)
If you have heard anything about The Paperboy it is probably about a certain infamous scene – (there are two, but I'm talking about the one with Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron and a jellyfish.) Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron and John Cusack star in this 1960's-set murder-thriller that completely unravels in the last five minutes. It's trashy, it's campy and somehow that makes it good.
6. Knight of Cups (2015)
I discovered Knight of Cups via its trailer, which ran before Hail, Caesar (see #7). In the trailer, we see parties, palm trees, pools and the beaches of Los Angeles spliced with quick bits of dialogue like "You see the palm trees...they tell you anything is possible," and "No one cares about reality anymore." After the trailer, my date said it looked like a Bret Easton Ellis film; we looked it up later only to find out he had no involvement. There's not much to Knight of Cups by way of storyline or dialogue (it's essentially a collage of the prettiest places in LA pasted together with voiceovers) but damn, if it isn't a beautiful film. Christian Bale wanders through the script-less movie (seriously, there was no script) and it's interesting to watch, even better if you feel like spiraling off into an existensial crisis.
7. Hail, Caesar! (2016)
I saw this on a date, (one that I was not particularly excited to be on) but we are both fans of The Coen Brothers so its release was timely. Set within a 1950's studio lot in Hollywood that intersects with some communists, there are many worlds inside its world. Aeshetically, it is a beautiful film and suprisingly the best part is a Channing Tatum-led dance scene involving a bunch of sailors. Unfortunately – like my date – it fell flat.
8. A Single Man (2009)
I have my own mental Netflix queue of movies that are on my shortlist to watch, but sometimes it takes me years to get to them. I remember Colin Firth being nominated for Best Actor for A Single Man and the press surrounding it for fashion designer-cum-director Tom Ford. Stylistically, it's everything you would expect from one of the most iconic designers in American history - it is crisp, tailored and nonchalantly cool. What would it be like to live in Tom Ford's 1960s.
9. The First Monday in May (2016)
In news that should be suprising to no one, not one theatre in Kansas City planned to screen The First Monday in May. A fashion blogger friend of mine (whom I met through Kansas City Fashion Week) called local theatres and promised them there were enough people with interest in this film for them to screen it. (We ended up being one of 5 people at the screening, so maybe not.) But Tivoli Cinemas finally agreed, so me and two fashion blogger friends of mine went to see it. The First Monday in May offers a comprehensive look at the planning of The MET Ball and provides fresh fodder for the "Is fashion art?" debate. (Short answer: yes.) Though all three of us have a deep and invested interest in fashion, The First Monday in May showcases it in a way you don't need to be a history buff or fashion minor to enjoy watching.
10. Asthma (2014)
I stumbled upon Asthma somewhere in the depths of Netflix on some bored Sunday afternoon earlier this year. Krysten Ritter (Ruby) plays a tattoo artist, starring alongside Benedict Samuel's Gus, a bored junkie. After flinging white paint all over the New York apartment that his dad presumably pays for and throwing his phone in the river when he sees a call from him, he goes out to get a fix and meets Krysten Ritter's character. Much like Max's highs, Asthma seems to end right when it starts to take off and leaves more to be desired. It is like a small purchase too cheap to be returned; it's not dislikeable enough to regret watching but there's nothing to be gained from it either.
11. Mystic Pizza
I found Mystic Pizza on DVD for a few dollars at a local bookstore right after I had gone through a break up, so I bought it, remembering that I had read somewhere it was Julia Roberts' breakout role. It's a pretty good watch as a post-breakup movie; easy to digest, mindless. Most notably, how do I get my hair to look like Julia Roberts' in this film?
By Kathryn Greene