Shentonista Recommends — Films for October

We’re into the fourth and final quarter of the year, and for all of you who are feeling burnt out, there’s nothing like a bit of good storytelling to give your mind a break. Here are the team’s picks of five films that we’ve watched, loved, and would love to share.

Oldboy — 2013
Genre: Drama/Mystery
Director: Park Chan-wook
Cast: Choi Min-sik, Kang Hye-jung, Yoo Ji-tae

Plot Summary: Dae-su is abducted from the street after being bailed from the police station, and wakes up to find himself in a tiny room which becomes his cell for the next 15 years. He is finally released one day, and goes on a hunt to find his jailor and the reason behind his imprisonment—a journey that takes him back into a past that he will come to regret.

Why we liked it: Forgo the 2013, American remake of this film, made a decade after the groundbreaking original by Park Chan-wook. Few retellings ever surpass or even do as well as the first incarnation, and anyone who’s watched Oldboy will tell you it’s a film that stays in the mind for a long, long time, and hardly needs any new gloss. Not simply for the truly disturbing plot, but for Oldboy’s gripping pacing, the sense of tension that pervades throughout, and storytelling at its best.

Watch the trailer here.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas — 2008
Genre: Historical Drama
Director: Mark Herman
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Vera Farmiga, Jack Scanlon, David Thewlis

Plot Summary: Bruno’s father becomes a commandant during World War II, so the family moves out of the city, and, unbeknownst to Bruno, right next to the concentration camp which his father is now in charge of. The young boy stumbles upon the borders of the camp, and meets a Jewish boy of his age. Through the barbed-wire fence that separates them, the boys form an unexpected, forbidden friendship, blissfully unaware of the reality of their relationship.

Why we liked it: With the threat of war looming ominously between certain superpowers in the world today, movies like The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas serve as reminders of what humanity has gone through and hopes to never relive. Based on the novel by Irish writer John Boyne, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is one of many films that explore the painful, harrowing Holocaust. What it does differently, though, is show the horrors through the innocence of a child’s eyes. A simple message lies in the heart of the film—that friendship knows no class, race, or physical boundaries—and the gut-wrenching reality of Bruno and Shmuel’s world drives home a clear lesson: that there are no winners in any war.

Watch the trailer here.

The Royal Tenenbaums — 2001

Genre: Drama/Comedy
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Gene Hackman, Bill Murray, Ben Stiller, Owen & Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow

Plot Summary: The Tenenbaum children were geniuses—Margot, a Pulitzer-winning playwright by Grade 9; Richie a champion tennis player ranked 2nd in the world at 17; and Chads, a financial expert who started buying real estate in his early teens. But their callous, unfeeling father, Royal, brought the trio to ruins—though probably not of his own intent—after separating from his wife Etheline. The whole family comes back together for a sudden reunion one winter, and things get out of hand.

Why we liked it: A trailer for Anderson’s upcoming stop-motion movie reminded us of all the things we love about the American director’s films. There’s his sense of wry, comic timing, for one; his unmistakeable visual style—a penchant for symmetry, striking use of colour, and 1970’s styling— iconic costumes, some of which have become indelible parts of pop culture, and more. The Royal Tenenbaums takes all those elements and weaves them together with an arguably Hollywood blockbuster favourite: a tale of a dysfunctional family, with eccentric members and a heartwarming payoff.

Watch the trailer here.

Captain Fantastic — 2016

Genre: Drama/Comedy
Director: Jack Ross
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Annalise Basso

Plot Summary: Ben and his wife Leslie live with their six children in the wilderness of Washington state. Here, isolated from the rest of the world, he teaches his kids about everything from the works of Noam Chomsky to hunting and gathering. The children are self-sufficient and independent, but when Leslie falls into depression and takes her own life, Ben and his kids must journey out into society, and find that there’s more to learn about the world than can be read or taught.

Why we liked it: Like many coming-of-age tales before it, Captain Fantastic blends all the necessary ingredients for a sure-fire box-office hit: a tale with heart; unexpected humour; characters you want to cheer for; and, to make it all the more interesting, an indie-music soundtrack to boot. What it does differently from many other similar tales, though, is to take itself seriously—no slapstick comedy or overblown pep-talks here. And perhaps it’s this simplicity that makes it work—fuss-free, beautifully shot, and expertly acted, the film tackles the big question of Life in a way that’s more than pleasantly palatable.

Watch the trailer here.

A Clockwork Orange — 1971

Genre: Drama/Crime
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates

Plot Summary: Alex and his bunch of friends (‘droogs’) spend their after-hours getting high and indulging in savage acts of recreation. After he’s jailed for manslaughter, Alex undergoes a new behaviour modification technique, meant to ‘cure’ him of his violent tendencies, and emerges from prison a changed man—though not necessarily for the better.

Why we liked it: Anthony Burgess’s novel of the same name, written in 1962, envisioned a future plagued by violent youths, and explored the underlying issues of the order of society versus individual choice; the nature of evil; psychological rehabilitation and more. However, one of the perhaps more unexpected outcomes of the film was its impact on fashion and popular culture. Released in 1971, Kubrick’s take on Alex’s world mixed the colourful, retro furnishings that were popular in the ’70’s with costumes that included everything from a Charlie-Chaplin-style hat to a suede, royal purple coat. The film continues to inspire fashion designers today; just last year, Chitose Abe’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection for Sacai featured t-shirts emblazoned with ‘HORRORSHOW’ (one of the slangs used in the book, meaning ‘excellent’) and other outfits in reference to A Clockwork Orange. It’s little wonder that the film has become a cult classic, and its commentary on juvenile delinquency still rings true more than 40 years after it was made.

Watch the trailer here.

Have a film you’d like to recommend? We’d love to know— leave a comment below, or write in to hello@shentonista.sg.

Image credits:
Oldboy
The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas
The Royal Tenenbaums 
Captain Fantastic
A Clockwork Orange

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