Movie Marathon Essentials
Reading Time: 8 minutes
Everyone needs the occasional movie marathon; in light of recent rainy Sundays, we at A&E HQ have concocted a perfect blend of films sure to satisfy any kind of genre-bent desire you may have. So sit back, relax, and prepare to be entertained!
Spirited Away (2001)
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing, aesthetically pleasing watch, or an insightful social commentary film to add to your ideal movie marathon, Spirited Away is the perfect inclusion. Spirited Away was produced by Japanese animation giant Studio Ghibli in 2001 and immediately enchanted audiences worldwide with its whimsical storyline and breathtaking visuals. The film follows a young girl named Chihiro who ventures into a magical bathhouse to rescue her parents from a malevolent witch. With Ghibli’s comforting, highly detailed animation style and a wide cast of charming fantasy characters, Spirited Away remains entertaining for the nearly two hours of its runtime. On the surface, the film is lighthearted and cohesive, which makes for a simple but lovely storyline that leaves many viewers coming back for more. Digging deeper, Spirited Away is also an insightful exploration of various societal issues and concepts; thorough analysis reveals several sagacious lessons weaved between the scenes. Ultimately, Spirited Away is a visually and intellectually vibrant movie that deserves a place in any movie marathon.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) combines a star-studded cast with endearing stylization to create a whimsical love letter to both comics and video games. An adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s acclaimed comic series, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2005), the film follows the titular character of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a selfish, unemployed 22-year-old desperate for the love of the new girl in town: mysterious Amazon delivery girl Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Getting involved with Ramona comes with an unexpected cost: Scott becomes targeted by Ramona’s “Seven Evil Exes” and is forced to fight them for Ramona’s heart. Scott’s journey is one of self-improvement; despite Michael Cera’s likeability, Scott is a pretty terrible person, and the film does not shy away from showcasing this complexity. Though the film unfortunately lacks much of the source material’s content, it maintains a sense of authenticity to the books by translating visual onomatopoeia, pop culture references, crude humor, and video game sound effects into the live-action medium. Wright’s unique directing style is another constant, with quick cuts, zooms, transitions, and camera movement defining every scene and adding to O’Malley’s foundation.
With its charming plot and vibrant soundtrack, Grease has left its mark on the film world. Directed by Randal Kleiser, Grease follows the innocently demure Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and quintessential “bad boy” Danny (John Travolta) in a lovably mismatched romance. While Sandy and Danny’s relationship begins authentically over the summer, Danny’s desperation to protect his image at school prevents him from expressing the sensitivity that Sandy knows him to be capable of. Sandy, dejected by Danny’s insincere persona but still “hopelessly devoted” to him, adopts a more self-assured persona to conform to Danny’s social circle. The two rekindle their summer romance as the movie progresses, with exuberant, energetic musical numbers littered throughout. During the last song of the movie, “You’re the One That I Want,” Sandy and Danny come together at the school carnival dressed in each other’s signature styles, a culmination of their redeveloped love. Though the movie’s endearing plotline draws viewers in, it doesn’t delve too deeply into a complex narrative—instead, its timeless soundtrack, electrifying visuals, and 1950s costumes keep viewers watching. Grease captures the playful, lighthearted, and rebellious nature of teenage romance, leaving room for viewers to sing along.
Lady Bird (2017)
Lady Bird (2017), directed by Greta Gerwig, is a collection of vignettes illustrating the growing pains of being a teenager and the complex relationship between “Lady Bird” (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother (Laurie Metcalf). The movie is presented through deliberate peeks into the lives of the characters, with defining and pivotal moments being shot just as any other and cut just as abruptly. The moments play more like memories than an actual film, home videos turned into a full-length film. The entrancing stillness of every moment contrasts with the chaotic multitude of developments in Lady Bird’s life—from growing close to her crush to fighting with her parents to deciding what to wear to prom—allowing the viewer to become immersed in the hustle and bustle of her life. The viewer experiences the film in the same way Lady Bird experiences life—fixating on the small things until they look up and realize what they have been neglecting. In that sense, Lady Bird creates a character wholly flawed, but also extremely relatable in those flaws.
Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film Brazil fuses absurdist imagery with sharp social commentary in a brilliant stroke of dark comedy. The movie follows a government employee whose life is upended after an insect jams a computer, causing a cascade of mishaps throughout the government’s bureaucracy. Somehow, the computer bug links him with a terrorist group, and he finds himself being tortured in police custody. As the torture continues, his mind begins to break down, and the lines between reality and fantasy blur. Gilliam communicates the protagonist’s insanity through maximalist visuals, combining the elaborate and whimsical contraptions of government with dark fantasy costumes straight out of The Labyrinth (1986). This jumble of influences comes together to create a winding, uncertain narrative that fluidly passes from dream to reality until the boundary between the two melts away. In addition to its stylistic and narrative success, Brazil’s depiction of an intensely bureaucratic surveillance state built on the constant instantaneous transfer of information rings true today, especially in its emphasis on the fundamental absurdity of the whole system.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) perfectly captures the quirks of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s novel with charming stop-motion animation and Anderson’s instantly recognizable style. The film follows Mr. Fox in his attempts to provide for his family and escape the capture of three farmers, who serve as the main antagonists. Quaint visuals, storybook sets, and character models reminiscent of old-fashioned dolls result in a unique viewing experience in an era dominated by sleek, computer-generated animation. The voice cast of A-listers works surprisingly well; George Clooney as Mr. Fox and Willem Defoe as Rat lend personality and wit to their characters. Though the spiky, gruesome spirit of Dahl’s original work is made into a more tender narrative, Anderson still manages to retain the emotional core of the source material without sacrificing beauty. Fantastic Mr. Fox may actually be better suited to adult audiences than children due to its eccentric design and complex interpersonal (inter-fox?) family dynamics. Nonetheless, the emotional earnestness that runs throughout the film has an appeal that could touch any viewer.
Tick, Tick…Boom! (2021)
Tick, Tick…Boom! is a movie adaptation of the semi-autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, who wrote the original in 1990, six years before his premature death at the age of 36. Behind the camera is Lin-Manuel Miranda, the spiritual successor to Larson, who puts every ounce of care he can into telling Larson’s story. The movie follows Larson, a struggling 30-year-old musical theater writer navigating his failing relationship, the AIDS epidemic, and his life’s work being deemed too ambitious for risk-averse Broadway. As mentioned in an epilogue, Larson went on to write RENT, one of the longest-running shows on Broadway, but never lived to see it performed, passing away due to a sudden aortic aneurysm on the show’s opening night. Larson’s heart-wrenching, non-traditional musical numbers are the icing on the cake, standing out as Miranda delivers a faithful tribute to the man who shaped the landscapes of music and theater for years to come.
Before Sunrise (1995)
Directed by Richard Linklater, Before Sunrise (1995) is the first movie in the Before trilogy, and follows two strangers who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend the day together in Vienna. Exploring the essence of human connections and the fleeting nature of time, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) go from being strangers to finding comfort in each other and sharing their views on love, life, and dreams. Before Sunrise is a story about the deep and genuine connections that can stem from seemingly simple and unremarkable encounters. The naturalistic and austere dialogue makes the characters relatable and represents the authenticity of their relationship, perfectly capturing the intensity of a brief love encounter with its sincerity and emotional depth.
Directed by James Mangold, Logan (2017) finds the superhero Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in an apocalyptic future where a majority of the X-Men are dead. Logan at first is just an action movie, but the film differentiates itself with its violent interpretation of the classic Wolverine character. Logan is much more than action, however; it is a story about coming to terms with legacy. The Wolverine is not an honorable man and has regrets that he wishes to relive and redo. Instead of looking back on the past, he acts on the future, stopping the cycle of violence he participated in for so long. Logan is a story about a man who has to come to terms with himself and death. Knowing that he is not going to live forever, he must work with himself and the people around him to ensure that he makes the most of his time left. While bittersweet and gut-wrenching, Logan is a must-watch movie about finding our purpose in a flawed life.
Synecdoche, New York (2008)
A lot can be said about Charlie Kaufman’s 2008 magnum opus Synecdoche, New York. For one, it’s a tongue twister—both in the title’s play on the city Schenectady, New York, where a portion of the film takes place, and in the film’s intricate and winding plot. Spanning the course of 50 or so years, Synecdoche follows playwright Caden Cotard (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) as he reckons with his place in the world. After winning the MacArthur grant, Cotard decides to put on a play in an impossibly large warehouse. The play unfolds in size exponentially, a process that involves a to-scale replica of New York City and hundreds of actors working to portray something “real and truthful.” To attempt to summarize this film is an injustice; Synecdoche is ambitious about everything, and it tackles this task in a manner that is often depressing, consistently dense, and unwaveringly profound. Time and space are molded with a dream-like logic that remains grounded in the humanity of each character—in their despair, imperfection, and ambition. Directed and written with Kaufman’s quirky charm and featuring a towering performance by the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Synecdoche is an utter triumph of a film—a piece of art that is sure to stand the test of time.