So what’s the significance of blogging about the most essential films in a particular era or year? As we all know, more than half of the world’s population is now in quarantine, and the country with the most coronavirus cases in the USA. Since it is the world’s largest economy, all its entertainment, fiscal, and political relations are affected. News about spring and summer film releases pushing back to either autumn and winter, or even canceled for the rest of the year is among the headlines.
Netflix, Hulu, and other online streaming sites might have prepared new originals, but it may only take a matter of time for them to run out. The only way for us to gobble films and series is to rewatch our favorites, or better yet, watch old films we haven’t seen. The quarantine might be a way for us to expand our horizons and challenge our film tastes.
The year 2000
The Millenium was a very significant time in pop culture. And when I look back, the MTV show, MTV Screen was so engrossed with incredible new film releases (but this is not to disregard the other years prior and after 2000). It offered some of the most essential films in pop culture. I will round up some of the essential films in the year 2000, which have impacted cinema even up to this day.
If you’re a cinephile, step away, because I’m sure that you’ve already seen most, if not all, of these films. For the newbies, I’m sure many of these films will either be a delight or a wake-up call.
As per every Christopher Nolan film, Memento is intriguing, if not confounding. It’s one of the arthouse films in the year 2000 that made waves and was pushed further to get extensive screenings. With its non-linear structure and several puzzles, the viewers wanted a second round (or even more).
Just like Lucy in the hit movie 50 First Dates, the main character Leonard (played by Guy Pearce) has anterograde amnesia, and the last thing he remembers was the rape and murder of his wife. The quest for the culprit is the predicament of this mind-boggling film.
It will be striking for a lot of people to find out that there is a star-studded film made about the war on drugs. But besides the Hollywood fame game, the film boasts a good storyline and a superb political commentary. In different situations intertwined with drug cartels, drug addicts, and the government, each person involved is caught in a trap–a war that wherever executed is unwinnable.
In The Mood For Love
In the Mood for Love is one, if not the most celebrated Won Kar Wai film. Escorted by cinematographer Christopher Boyle’s mysterious and bewitching shots of small spaces and cabalistic hues, In the Mood for Love was able to convey a deep sense of curbed longing.
The two lovebirds in the story, Su Li-Zhen (Maggie Cheung) and Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) are neighbors who find out that their respective spouses cheat on them. With no one to confer, they decide to see each other as friends, forming a deep connection. However, for a kindred that belies their spouses’ transgression, they’re almost left with no choice but to repress their love in order not to fall to the same crime.
Almost Famous is an autobiographical film by Director and writer Cameron Crowe during his stint at Rolling Stone magazine in the 70s. Aside from himself, the film is also focused on the elite group of groupies, or band-aids as what they’re called–women who toured with rockstars, slept with them, but legitimately loved their music.
The character Penny Lane (played by Kate Hudson) was based on Pennie Trumble, the queen of these band-aids. The fabricated band, Stillwater‘s (a namesake of a real 70s band, but it’s not them) members are based on a collective set of rockstars during that era (according to hearsays, the inspiration includes Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, and Deep Purple (who was even mentioned in the film)).
Almost Famous is one of the best rock n’ roll films ever made. Cameron Crowe even won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for it. Some criticized the film as sanitized compared to the events in real life, but it is meant to be heartwarming, just like most of Crowe’s films.
As one of the films with a severed “cult status,” this film has influenced many–from the Hunger Games to the popular online video game Fortnite. Battle Royale was banned from several cinema houses around the world because of its grotesque and brutal nature, and the fact that it is about a government selecting one high school class every year to kill each other.
As a cry for change in the Japanese’ youth and educational system, the film has raised several other issues like psychotic behavior, control, and manipulation–all utterly significant to personal and social problems in the world up to this day.
Dancer in the Dark
Excruciating at best, Dancer in the Dark, my first Lars von Trier film, got me into an ultimatum. I swore I would only watch a Lars von Trier film every three years (but I eventually extended it to 10 years, after watching Nymphomaniac). But that promise is less ponderous as compared to protagonist Bjork’s vow never to go acting again after her brawl with Trier, even despite her Best Actress win at the Cannes Film Festival.
Dancer in the Dark is a must-watch, especially during our time in lockdown and the recurring issue of poverty being a choice or not. The main character Selma is a factory worker pitted in hardship. With very little to save for her son’s operation to rid of eventual blindness inherited from her, she would resort to daydreaming about being in a perfect and serene place. Her grueling fate is even put to the test and would leave her in a life-threatening ballgame.
Before Night Falls
Who would’ve thought that Johnny Depp had played a trans woman in his career? It’s an exciting bonus of this film, but more than anything, Before Night Falls is about the life of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas.
Based on the writer’s autobiography, the story revolves around Arenas’ challenging career and his yearning for freedom, after having come to terms with his sexuality in a homophobia-laden revolutionary Cuba.
Boasting of an Oscar-worthy performance by Javier Bardem and another exciting cameo by Sean Penn, the film is certainly worthy of your time in quarantine.
As one of the princes of rom-com in the late 80s and the 90s, John Cusack came back with another witty character. This time it’s Rob Gordon, a 30-year-old record shop owner re-evaluating what went wrong in each of his relationships. The story has several tones of male patriarchy, but it is intelligently-written, with female empowerment insistence (as evident as it is). So I guess it constitutes gender equality.
Requiem for a Dream
A film that’s one of its kind, Requiem for a dream is a damn experience. If you haven’t tried taking illegal drugs, then watching this film will make you feel almost every sensation that comes with it. On the surface, the movie presents how a drug addict’s life will turn out, but in hindsight, it turns out to be something more profound, like saying goodbye to the American dream.
Requiem (a song for the dead during burials) for a dream, indeed, is about saying goodbye to dreams and aspirations. Harry (Jared Leto) and his mother (Ellen Burstyn) both have big yearnings in their lives, but they are void of opportunities. Harry, along with his best friend Tyrone (in a surprising portrayal of Marlon Wayans) and girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connely), partake in the illegal drug trade. His mother is addicted to pills on weight loss, television, and the idolatry on a tv show host. In the end, their illusory friend (drugs) betrays them, and their dreams crumble down the pit.
Art by Jim Morada