I'm thinking of ending films (2020): unambiguously adored it.
This is a surrealist psychological drama. It is not going to be for everyone. Its dialogue and cinematography are incredibly rich, though often challenging and deliberately alienating. The performances are stellar. The themes are masterfully explored. However, most of the film's subject matter and thematic implications are rather dark and harrowing. This film discussing things like depression, suicidal ideation and loneliness. It is a great film, but you need to be in right state of mind to watch it.
The dig (2021): unambiguously adored it
This is a beautifully serene film that uses the excavation of Sutton Hoo as the framework for some elegantly performed, written and shot interpersonal & historical drama. The film uses this significant event in the history of archeology to skillfully discuss themes like the nature of history & legacy and explore the gender, class & sexuality dynamics of Britain during WWII. A film for people who are interested in how history is written and who the people are who are often left out of it.
Manifesto (2015): unambiguously loved it
This is a fascinating experimental film that paints an intriguing picture of the avant-garde and modernism. Cate Blanchett gives a staggering performance as the film's sole focus. She delivers 13 different monologues as 13 different characters. Each monologue contains excerpts from various artistic and philosophical manifestos and is delivered by a visually distinct character that seemingly embodies each artistic movement. If that seems stuffy to you, do not be mistaken; the monologues are positively riveting in their writing and performance. If you're into art history and experimental film, this should be something for you.
The Green Knight (2021): mostly loved it
I needed to some to time to appreciate this film. The first time I saw it I was mostly dazzled by the cinematography, the style, the ambiguous storytelling etc. And I came away from it not really knowing what to think. The second time I watched it I really loved it. It became clear to me that the film is a thoughtful reflection on purpose, nobility, masculinity and the ways in which the prospect of death influences how we live. Really unique film. It is not going to be for everyone. The story and ending are deliberately slow, mysterious and ambiguous. There is very little action and the pacing takes its time.
Arrival (2016): unambiguously loved it
I adore this film. It's not every day you see a science-fiction film that incorporates linguistic theory to ask fundamental questions about communication and perspective, while also telling an incredibly moving story about connection, cooperation, love, loss and humanity.
Birdman ( or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014): unambiguously adored it
This film has grown on me over the years. When I first saw it I was impressed by its style, cinematography, its performances and appreciated much of its storytelling, but it didn't really feel it. Later I re-watched it and it felt entirely different. Its magical realism, its ambiguous ending, its incredibly fast dialogue, were challenges that overwhelmed me the first time, but moved and fascinated me the second time. With every viewing after that my appreciation grew further. It's a story for creators. It asks brutal questions about the relation of art and commercialism, legacy, identity, validation etc. However, it is also more than that. Ultimately, it's an existentialist story about what it means to be alive and lead a meaningful existence.
The Hours (2002): an all-time favourite
I saw it just before heading to university and it has never left me. It is an incredibly moving film about life, depression, meaning, freedom, love and so on. I adore this film with all my heart.
Hot Fuzz (2007): an all-time favourite
Perfect comedy. Love it to death.
Sharp Objects (2018): mostly loved it
This mini-series uses the format of the whodunnit to deeply explore its psychological drama. It's a series about womanhood, childhood trauma, abuse, self-harm, self-hatred and more. For people with a history of self-harm or mental illness I would advise to proceed with caution. It is quite explicit in its exploration of the aforementioned themes. It's often heartbreaking and anxiety-inducing in its execution. The performances and cinematography are excellent. However, as a whodunnit, the series does proceed somewhat slowly. It also has an ending that may frustrate and puzzle people who were mainly watching for that aspect of the series.
Black Earth Rising (2018): mostly loved it
This is a great political drama/thriller that explores the Rwandan genocide and its related colonial history. That may sound heady, but the story is incredibly personal and human. This series has many fascinating characters, intriguing personal dynamics and a has a lot of thought-provoking things to say about the history of colonialism, its contemporary iterations and consequences, personal and historical trauma, accountability and responsibility. I would definitely recommend that people both familiar and unfamiliar with the recent history of the African continent watch it.
Better Call Saul (2015-2022): unambiguously adore it; a modern classic
Breaking Bad (2008-2013) is a seminal piece of crime drama that everyone should watch. Its characters are complex and masterfully portrayed, its plot is dynamic and captivating, its themes are nuanced, incredibly layered and elegantly explored. Go watch it. You will not see anything like it, that is, apart from Better Call Saul.
Better Call Saul is a prequel series to Breaking Bad. It has all the strengths of its predecessor: incredible cinematography, deep and involving plot-lines, rich and complex characters, masterful performances, nuanced and fascination themes etc. While BB is mainly a crime drama, Better Call Saul is that plus a bunch more (legal drama, relationship drama, family drama, dark comedy etc.). It blends these genres together in a way that is seamless and simply astonishing. This series accomplishes everything it sets out to do as a prequel. In my opinion, it also surpasses BB in its exploration of character, plot, themes and so on. This will go down in history as one of the greatest pieces of television ever made. Please go watch Breaking Bad and then watch Better Call Saul. You will not regret it.
Unbelievable (2019): mostly loved it
For many people this is a going to be a difficult or impossible watch. This mini-series centres around the occurrence and resolution of a series of rapes and sexual assaults. On top of that, the series explores the patriarchal nature of policing and draws attention to the disbelief and stigmatisation rape survivors face. This topic has been broached by a number of crime dramas, one of which was Broadchurch (2013-2017), itself an example of the police procedural & crime drama at its finest. However, while most of those series, Broadchurch included, still maintain a copaganda narrative, Unbelievable is one of the first I have seen to explicitly criticize the patriarchal nature of policing and how that has detrimental consequences for the lives of rape survivors. All of these incredibly difficult and complex themes are handled tactfully. On top of that, the series features some astounding performances and character work. This is a seminal piece of crime drama that is moving and infuriating and deserves to be watched by anyone who can stand to be confronted by the harsh reality of living in a patriarchal culture.
Years and Years (2019): mostly loved it
This series is a stunning piece of television. An astonishing mix of personal drama, science fiction dystopia and political commentary. It approaches the speculative science fiction genre with a level of plausibility that is truly extraordinary. Often, it's emotionally challenging and confrontational. This series will get your heart pupping and your jaw dropping.
The only thing that holds it back for me is the show's insistence on two-siding certain issues. It is a drama with clear liberal sensibilities that sometimes seems to presume reactionary tendencies both in the far right and of the far left in a way that is sometimes puzzling. However, if you take a closer look at the more subtle details of its alternative history setting, then those things do start to make more sense. Ultimately, regardless of my objections to some of its ideological presumptions, it remains an impressive piece of television. If you are traumatised by the events the last few years, then maybe postpone watching it until you can bear to be disturbed. However, if you want to see a plausible and haunting perspective of an alternative present/possible near future, then you have to watch it. This is prestige drama at its finest. Watch it.
The Sinner (2017-2021): unambiguously adore it
This is an outstanding police procedural. To be honest, most of the time it's more of psychological thriller/drama. It explores its characters and themes with an incredible amount of depth, empathy and elegance. More often than not, it touches on themes like toxic masculinity, male fragility, trauma, empathy etc. in ways that are just not that common on mainstream television. Definitely worth a watch.
Midnight Mass (2021): unambiguously adore it
This is another Mike Flanagan vehicle like Bly Manor and Hill House. The horror somewhat lessened here and the dialogue is expanded even more. There are many monologues that delve in the depths of characterisation and discuss things like ideology, religion, forgiveness etc. The dialogue has theatrical qualities in its ambition and style. I found this series to be an incredibly moving and thoughtful discussion of death, faith, religious fanaticism and morality. It is the first series where I have seen the philosophy of non-dualism be expressed so clearly and it is a beautiful and amazing moment. The series is filled with deeply impactful moments that blend personal drama with philosophical storytelling. Like with Bly and Hill House, if you don't like dialogue-focused contemplative storytelling, if you don't like monologue-driven scenes, if you don't like conceptual horror... then you should temper your expectations before watching this one.
The Haunting of Hill House (2017) & The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020): unambiguously adore it
Both of these series are amazing. They are ostensibly horror, but their dramatic potency cannot be downplayed. They are incredibly moving contemplations on loss, grief, death, memory and various essential aspects of being alive. As horror series, they function well, but they truly shine as contemplative pieces on human relationships and the human experience. There is some sketchy English accents in Bly, but apart from that I personally consider them to be near perfect. However, if you're into jump scares, don't like conceptual horror, or dialogue-focused story-telling then you might have to temper your expectations about what horror can be before you watch these.
Happy! (2017-2019); unambiguously adore it
This is Grant Morrison off the chain; obscene, absurd, jaw-dropping, fascinatingly weird and endlessly compelling. It has a unique sense of humour. It is all over the place: dramatic, silly, gory, sensitive, funny etc. More than anything, it is incredibly bold. You might not like it, but will definitely amaze you in some way or another.
Rake (2010-2018): an all-time favourite (apart from the last season)
During its first seasons, this Australian series was the perfect blend of (courtroom) drama, satire, comedy and personal drama. It was fun, moving, ridiculous and oddly sharp and satirically prescient in certain places. Its fourth season lost a lot of its dramatic poignancy and leaned more heavily into the farcical elements. Still, it was more than watchable and entertaining. The final and fifth season completely lost me. For me it was no longer believable and too cartoonish. Despite all of that, I still think the first four seasons were incredibly good television and definitely worth a watch.
Dead Like Me (2003); an all-time favourite
Dead like me is an incredibly unique show. It combines a dry & morbid sense of humour, supernatural elements and a generally philosophical and existential focus. It is a funny and silly series, but it never stops being thoughtful and poignant. I would definitely recommend this if you are look for something refreshing.
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