What can we accomplish in two short weeks? Despite the short turnaround between quarters, we all have different methods of recovering from the eleven-week marathon of fall quarter: spending time with family, going on a trip, hibernating, reading. Personally, I used the break as an opportunity to watch some of my most-anticipated films.
As I watched the six films listed below, I began to notice a recurring theme, coincidentally (or not). Perhaps in an attempt to bring audiences back to a time when we weren’t living through a global pandemic, the films I watched all seemed to feature some variation on the theme of reminiscence. Films such as West Side Story, Nightmare Alley, and Tick, Tick…BOOM! actually brought us back in time (note: not necessarily better times) and re-imagined existing films – or one man shows, in the case of Tick, Tick…BOOM!. Meanwhile, Licorice Pizza was a love letter to 1970s San Fernando Valley and the coming-of-age experience. The Matrix Resurrections revived a decades-old trilogy, providing a surprisingly meta commentary on the concept of rebirth and restoration. Finally, Spider-Man: No Way Home officially kicked off the MCU’s multiverse with appearances from the Spider-Man franchise’s past.
All of these films served as examples of ways the past (and time itself) can be harnessed to evoke new experiences, despite not being completely original pieces themselves. Above all the discourse around originality in film, all six of these films were still able to introduce new ideas, update old ones, and perhaps some provide relief to those living in a time of high stress. Below, I’ve listed the six films; if you have the chance, be sure to watch them all!
1. West Side Story
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, Ansel Elgort, David Alvarez, Mike Faist
Summary: West Side Story (2021) adapts the iconic 1957 stage musical in which a forbidden love story arises from two warring street gangs in the upper west side of New York.
2. The Matrix Resurrections
Directed by: Lana Wachowski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick
Summary: Neo (Reeves) is living a seemingly ordinary life as a video game developer who appears to be having trouble distinguishing illusion from reality. Despite what we know about the events of the previous film, it seems that Neo must find another way to escape a new Matrix.
3. Licorice Pizza
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman
Summary: Licorice Pizza details the ever-evolving relationship between Alana Kane (Haim) and Gary Valentine (Hoffman) as both go on journeys of self-discovery in summery 1970s California.
4. tick, tick…BOOM!
Directed by: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus
Summary: Based on the autobiographical one man show by Jonathan Larson (the eventual creator of the musical Rent), Andrew Garfield plays Larson as he aspires to become the next great musical playwright.
5. Spider-Man: No Way Home
Directed by: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Benedict Cumberbatch
Summary: Taking place after the events of the previous film, Peter Parker must now navigate his life after having his identity revealed as Spider-Man. Asking for help from Doctor Strange only results in further complications, testing the limits of Peter’s abilities as a hero.
6. Nightmare Alley
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara
Summary: Cooper stars as Stanton Carlisle, a man who takes a job with a traveling carnival in the 1940s. In doing so, he learns the techniques of manipulation and uses it to swindle the elite, along with the help of a mysterious psychologist (Blanchett).