Books, Music and Film

5 Favorite Movies About Disability

It’s Disability Pride Month! Especially in smaller US cities, this celebration often gets overlooked. For this year’s reminder, I wanted to share my top favorite films centering around disability.

Benny and Joon

Though I was just a tiny pipsqueak when this movie came out, from what I know this film was pretty progressive for its time. It presents an honest snapshot of the strain and sacrifice caring for a family member with a disability or mental illness can often entail without turning the cared-for into a burden or someone to be pitied, which is a delicate but important balance. It also ultimately advocates for independence and autonomy. These two misfits, both with brains that work differently than what is considered “normal”, end up crossing paths in a pretty comedic way that involves a lost poker game. Benny is calm, easy-going, kind hearted, and incredibly knowledgeable on antiquated and obscure film history. He can recall a plethora of dates and trivia about his area of interest, yet he can’t read or write. June is impulsive and intense, and can experience pretty severe psychosis if unmedicated but is verbose and well spoken, an intuitive painter with a genius level vocabulary. As the Benny and Joon grow together along with the other colorful characters in their community, this film shows how we all have strengths and struggles. No one is meant to do things alone. We need all kinds and we need each other.

Mr. Blue Sky

Another film that is a sort of love story centering on disability, this one is low budget and lesser known. I’ll be upfront, the intro credits look like they were done in Microsoft Power Point, and the acting is a bit after school special. It’s definitely independent. Still, it has over a 7 rating on IMDB, I believe because of the unique view of interabled relationships.  The premise involves a love triangle between a group of old friends that grew up together as kids. Very Hallmark, except for one detail … one of the two ladies involved has down syndrome. I don’t want to give too much away, but as the plot unfolded and the male character admitted his unconventional crush, even I had trouble wrapping my mind around it. I was challenged to ask myself why I found this confusing when they are two consenting adults who both have an understanding of their feelings. Challenging is exactly how I’d describe this film, and why I’ve thought of it often since first watching it last month despite the fact that it arguably isn’t the best made film in the world. Some stories just need to be told.

Best And Most Beautiful Things

Be prepared to be challenged again by this documentary. Michelle, our leading lady, is so vibrant and interesting you will wish you could hang out with her for a day. She is legally blind and autistic, and has struggled to fit in throughout her life only to finally find her place within the kink/s&m community. This documentary is not about sex. It’s about discovering your identity(ies) (we are all so much more of an “and” than an “or”), it’s about breaking barriers and assumptions, it’s about how people with disabilities are expected to live in a perpetual state of childhood and treated like they are all the same (For more on how people with disabilities can and do participate in alternative subcultures, see the fabulous Drag Syndrome). Seeing someone who loves who they are and just shines (I was an unconfident, self-deprecating mess at 20!) is a message we can all receive and apply to our own lives.

Special

Ok not a movie, but this show is just plain fun and has all the trappings of a hip, witty sitcom but the main character happens to be a gay man with Cerebral Palsy. What makes it so different is the genuineness of the situations and dialog, I’m sure because the starring actor is also the writer. Ryan O’Connell based the show on his own experiences. His mother is another major player in the story who had her own arc around caregiver burnout, yet still having a difficult time letting go when her son wants independence and privacy. There are plenty of deep, sometimes very uncomfortable situations explored, always with humor, grace, and dignity.

Margarita With A Straw

Hailing from India, this coming of age story follows a college student who travels to America to attend school in New York.  I’m going to get my one gripe out of the way early: I wish they would have cast an actress who actually had Cerebral Palsy. For insight into why this matters when “isn’t the point of acting to pretend to be someone else?”, see this short Ted Talk by Maysoon Zayid. If you don’t want to watch the whole thing skip to minute 7.

Like many at this age, the main character is finding who she is, discovering her sexuality and what she wants in life. She grapples with finding someone who finally ‘sees’ her, but still having romantic feelings towards someone else. It’s messy, she makes mistakes, she hurts people … You know, just like we all do sometimes. That’s kind of the point. Disability activism is also touched on which I think is great, as I wasn’t introduced to that world until I met some very cool people through my work … more about that at the end!

Eagle Vs. Shark

Ok, I had to add an extra one to the list because this movie is so under watched and just one of my beloved favorites. This movie was Taika Waititi’s directorial debut back in 2007, before he was a big old deal after working with Marvel. When people have seen it, they inevitably compare it to Napoleon Dynamite due to the purposeful awkwardness and quirky wardrobe, and this honestly annoys me to no end. This movie is so much more than eccentricity for the sake of eccentricity. Though disability is never mentioned, it’s pretty obvious the two main characters lie somewhere on the ASD spectrum. Amongst the quirk and whimsy serious themes such as grief, isolation, broken family relationships, isolation, trauma, bullying, and betraying yourself to be loved and accepted are all integrated into the more lighthearted moments.

Edit … One more! I was just about to hit post and I thought of another film that I just had add to the list last minute.

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

This film is a true story about Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a stroke and became almost completely paralyzed at 43 except for his left eye. It is based entirely on a memoir he wrote after the accident. How could he do this when he has what is called “locked in syndrome” (the mind still works as it always did but the individual is “locked in” to a body that can no longer move or communicate) and can’t speak? He and his speech therapist devise a system of spelling out words using a blinking system to indicate certain letters with his eye that can still move. I can’t fathom experiencing something like this. Beyond my astonishment at Bauby’s determination I don’t think I ever realized that speech therapists quite literally save lives. Throughout the film are also Bauby’s personal reflections on how different he became after the accident not just physically but spiritually and emotionally. Leading up to what happened he was … well, a bit of a jerk. He reflects, “Does it take the harsh light of disaster to show a person’s true nature?” It’s a tough watch, but always a creative soul, Bauby in his own way triumphs through what I can only imagine is unbelievable psychic pain, “My diving bell becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly”.

I had the most wonderful experience of hosting a disability pride party this year at my workplace. Our art students with disabilities shared stories and performances, and I could tell from the whispers and reactions of guests that people went home a bit changed, with a new perspective on people with disabilities in our community.

If you’d like to see more of what we do at Creative 360, please visit our online gallery. You can watch some of the performance footage in the Acting Gallery. My favorite thing about art is its power to unlock untapped potential, and its ability to bring vastly different people together.

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Techniques and Tutorials

Mixed Media Movie Stills – The Wizard Of Oz

I’ve started making a series of “mini” 5×7 mixed media works on canvas board that recreate stills from my favorite movies using a variety of materials. This is purely a “for fun” project and a way for me to do some whimsical, low-pressure creating in between my larger projects. I will likely have them available for sale in my Facebook Shop so if you use that platform, give me a like. I’m starting with childhood favorites, and the first one I have for you is Wizard of Oz. Using a printout as inspiration, I am able to do a simple graphite transfer onto the art paper of my choice. In this case, I used watercolor paper. Finding printed fabric or paper for the background that is already similar to the pattern you are seeking adds ease to the art making process.

In each of these videos, I will be using completely different materials, and I hope you will be inspired to try your own mixed media projects at home. Don’t draw or paint and the idea of trying stresses you out? You could do this same thing all collage style and just cut and paste the figure from the photo! There is always a solution, just have fun with it and as always I’m just a message or comment away with questions :). Materials used for this project are: Viviva Colorsheets Watercolors (love the portability and zero cleanup!), watercolor paper, detail paint brushes, cotton printed fabric, a 5×7 canvas board, and Weldbond glue (used because it is a strong hold for all materials since we are using thicker paper and also fabric). Let me know what you think!

What are some of the prettiest movies you remember?

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Books, Music and Film

Movies To Watch This Halloween Weekend

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I am a huge movie enthusiast, and definitely classify movies as works of art themselves. Halloween is one of the best times for movies. I live in Michigan, and we actually had our first snow yesterday, making curling up on the couch an even more appealing way to spend an evening. I wanted to share my personal favorites, some theatrical, some funny, some disturbing … I don’t do straight up slasher horror films so for fans of Freddy, Jason, Michael, or the Exorcist I apologize. Lo and behold this is my personal, (quite pared down – It was hard!), best of Halloween list … enjoy!

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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This goes without saying. Viewings of this film and/or play are a Halloween tradition for a reason. If you have lived on this earth for more than 10-12 years and have not seen this movie yet I’d highly suggest you get on board. The original is best. I know there’s been some buzz about the remake, but I feel like this is an “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” situation, and though Laverne Cox is a fabulous actress, she just didn’t do it for me as a replacement for Tim Curry. I mean, Tim Curry was Hexxus in Fern Gully, the Lord Of Darkness in Legend, the scary clown in It … We have a lot of memories together.

Eraserhead

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This is actually the only David Lynch film I like. I had a lot of friends in college who were super into his work, and this was the only positive experience that came out of a coerced viewing of his library. I’m sorry guys, Blue Velvet is just not a good movie. This movie isn’t so much horror as an extreme-surreal sort of creepy. To me it reads like a really long stress dream. A guy accidentally got his girlfriend pregnant, her family is pissed, he’s not even sure he likes her that much … This resulting odd film is filled with situations and human interactions that would never happen in real life, a really sick baby that looks like a space alien, and even a really fun song courtesy of a woman living in the radiator. Just watch, you’ll see what I mean.

Donnie Darko

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This movie centers around Halloween, so of course it’s a shoe-in. This is one of those movies I can never get sick of. It’s very detailed and you tend to notice more and more as you re-watch.

Santa Sangre

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I’ll be honest, not to sound like an indecisive 8-year-old pondering her crush of the moment but I don’t know if I can even really say I like like this movie. Parts are super inspiring and sadly beautiful, others are plain hard to watch. The premise and visuals are just so bizarre and unlike any other movie I’ve ever seen, and that in and of itself makes it entertaining. It’s an Alejandro Jodorowsky, so you know it’s not going to be normal – It’s an experience. The premise is a far more interesting twist on the whole Alfred Hitchcock Psycho mother-son situation. This film centers around a troupe of circus performers. The mother is a dancer/gymnast who lost both her arms in quite an unpleasant fashion, and she now forces her son to literally be her arms. Like he is pretty much bound behind her at all times.

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He meets a cute little mime, falls in love, trouble ensues. Oh, there is also a crazy religion/cult that worships this saint who had both her arms chopped off in martyrdom. So there’s that.

Sweeney Todd

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Halloween musicals are where it’s at. This movie is pretty much a year-round choice for me, but I think the morbid theme makes it especially fitting for Halloween time. I’d always liked this play – It’s both emotionally moving and laugh out loud hilarious, and the music is amazing – and Tim Burton certainly did it justice in his film version. This specific cast was so great, I worry if I went and saw the play now I wouldn’t like it as much.

Dead Alive

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This is a weird little zombie-comedy that is ultra campy. It’s also ultra gross. Like, if the Garbage Pale Kids made a movie, this would be the end result. I normally am not one for super violent movies, which is odd because this number is chock-full of grotesque situations. However, it’s so 1980s-claymation-and-ketchup-fake and so gratuitous to the point of being silly that it doesn’t bother me. I don’t like violent films that show situations that could actually happen in real life; murders, muggings, all that noise; but goofy looking zombies ripping apart people’s heads and play-doh-spaghetti insides falling out? I can deal. There’s another awkward possessive mother situation here, too. I don’t know what’s with the entertainment industry and demonizing mothers – I can’t tell what’s worse, the horror genre or Disney movies.

The Evil Dead Trilogy

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Again, this is pretty much a Halloween classic so not much explanation is needed. I had the extreme pleasure of watching the musical version of this film in Detroit 2 years ago, and it was everything I’d thought it would be and more.

They Live!

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It’s the 80s … unemployment is rampant, income inequality is out of control, race relations are at an all time negative … so says the hackers breaking into the TV broadcasts that are turning people into mindless zombies. (Sidenote: I’m so glad things are so much better a quarter of a century later, am I right?) This same hacker society has developed glasses that show the truth … I want to give it away but it’s too great. You have to just watch it. Look at that screenshot!

So, what are your favorite movies to cuddle to once the calendar turns to October?

 

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Books

Stories As Inspiration

Remember what I said about myself and movies … I haven’t had even basic cable in years, and television shows generally don’t hold my interest, but I can’t get enough of books and movies. When I last talked about films, I was discussing movies that had visually inspired me as an artist. Those I chose to include in the list were chosen for visuals only, having nothing to do with the story line.

Awhile ago, I happened upon an article online as I traveled down the rabbit hole that is the internet … you know how it goes. The article was something like “10 Questions To Ask Yourself In Your 20s”, meant to help us young adults find ourselves and figure out what the heck we’re doing by percolating on the answers we came up with (I use the word “percolate” rather than “meditate” intentionally, because I have far too active an inner thought life to ever even attempt tranquil inner peace. I’ve come to terms with this fact.). One of the questions was, “What are your favorite stories, what do they say to you, and what does this say about you?” It’s an interesting thing to think about, especially for creative people since stories whether in film or print are an art of their own. I’ve shared my list here. These books and movies are not all necessarily the most mind-blowing, best written, or most awarded in their genre – that isn’t the point. These are the stories that my mind has continued to wander to from time to time since I first experienced them, or that I’ve found myself watching/reading over and over for whatever reason. The fun part after you make your own list is to figure out why that is.

What are my favorite stories?

Benny and Joon (film) – I swear I did not pick this because it has Johnny Depp in it, though that is what first prompted me to rent it back in the day ;).

  • No one is unlovable. We all have difficulties that we deal with, it is just that some come with a label and some don’t.
  • People are capable of becoming so much more than we’d ever imagine when given the chance.

Wristcutters: A Love Story (novel, later film) – Don’t let the title turn you off, this is actually a whimsical, heartwarming story (with some dark bits) that I remain glad a friend recommended.

  • Don’t despise where you are at in your life right now, or wish it away; there will come a time when you will miss it.
  • Sometimes what you are chasing after, what you think you need and want, will distract you from the opportunity for true happiness right in front of you.

The Sound of Music (film) – I was listening to this soundtrack on my parents record player and dancing to it in the basement playroom as a little kid long before I saw the movie for the first time. I’m sure many of you have seen it at least once as well, because Julie Andrews is basically the Queen of Everything.

  • Don’t try to force yourself into a life plan that doesn’t fit you; it never will. You have a right to change your mind at any moment.
  • People don’t change by having anger or reproach directed at them, being insulted or accused. They change when someone is willing to love them where they’re at, but also respectfully challenges their ideals and pushes them out of their comfort zone in a kind but spirited way.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (novel) -This book made me an Oscar Wilde fan for life.

  • Don’t discount small choices, each decision we make shapes who we will become.
  • Be aware of who you allow influence over what you believe and what is important to you.

The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time (novel) – I heard this book has become a play now, and I hope to see it someday. This story is told from the point of view of a young boy with autism, and for perspective alone I would recommend you give it a try.

  • Again, people are so much more than we let them be. Don’t box someone in and limit your view of their capabilities simply because of a label they’ve been given, or because their struggles are different from yours.

Middlesex (novel) – Certainly one of the most complex and interesting character-driven stories I’ve ever read, by one of my favorite authors.

  • Don’t be so quick to judge who someone is or what has made them the way that they are. Everyone has a rest of the story.
  • Oftentimes, the most courageous and subversive thing one can be is who they already are.

Howl’s Moving Castle (film) –

  • Again, always remember that everyone has a story, you only see a part.

I was actually surprised that many of the core takeaways from each very different story often overlapped (Though I shouldn’t have been – it makes sense I’d be attracted to the same theme that I value again and again represented in different ways). I can see my draw towards the celebration of idiosyncrasies, and the affirmation of individual human lives as intricate and full of possibility, in my surreal portraits that I’ve fallen in love with creating. I can even see evidence of living out the themes found in these stories in my career choice, not only opening up people’s capabilities through teaching art, but in working with people with disabilities, a group that is often unjustly marginalized and discounted. Stories are important. For creators of all types, our stories come out in what we create. But, even those who view themselves as the least creative individuals on the planet still tell a story in how they interact day to day with other people and with the world around them. So, what are some of your favorite stories?

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Books

Films That Have Visually Inspired Me

I am a big movie watcher. I am subscribed to no cable at all, not even 5 basic channels, and am always completely out of the loop as far as tv shows go. Yet, I could easily watch 4 movies a week on netflix. I swear the difference is that television shows tend to ride on dialogue, where most movies depend more heartily on visuals. Being more of a visually-thinking person in every sense, I find that many movies are truly moving pieces of art, filled with beauty and intrigue if you take the time to train your eyes to pay attention to the details. Since the time I was a child, there were certain scenes in movies that I could rewind and watch again and again simply because of the captivating details to be found in a camera angle, an interesting pattern in the background, the decoration on a costume … I’m not going to get into the plots of the films in this list too much because a) I’m focusing on sources of visual inspiration, not story-writing and b) You should go watch any of these you have not seen for yourself :). I’m starting with the films that inspired me as a kid, and working my way forward. Many of my childhood favorites have stood the test of time and I’m sure you have seen, but I think sometimes we overlook the actual artistry that goes into media aimed towards children.

Beauty and the Beast

I still have a big spot in my heart for this movie. The detail of the quaint little village Belle comes from at the beginning of the movie, as well as the intricacies of the Beast’s castle later on, and even the emotive illustration of each of the unique characters themselves is unmatched. My favorite part of the whole movie was always the ballroom scene, where the view pans up to a grand painted ceiling with fluffy clouds and little cherubs. It was like the Sistine Chapel to me at 5 years old.

The Little Mermaid

Another Disney, the brilliant colors of this fantasy undersea world captured my imagination. I could pause the film and stare into Ariel’s grotto for hours, spying at each piece of salvaged treasure she had stacked upon the tall rows of rock shelves. As odd as it may seem, another thing I always remember about this movie visually is the strong lighting. Throughout the film, sunlight streaks contrasting colors across each scene just as I imagine it would shining through the water if one did live under the sea. Each framed looked like a beautiful painting, be it a children’s cartoon or not. Though I’ve come around a bit more with some of the newer Pixar films, I’m not fully sold on solely digital animation yet, as we seem to have lost that quality.

The Princess and the Goblin

This last film from my childhood stuck out to me because it wasn’t Disney, very uncommon for fantasy children’s animated films. The style featured far more pen strokes and outlines, unrealistically pink/pale skin tones, and a constant flowy, ethereal quality to the drawing that lent itself well to fantasy. It was a lot more outright whimsical than Disney. The grandmother was just regal – unbelievably gorgeous and a bit haunting all the same. It was nice to see an older woman not portrayed as a witch, also (Thanks a lot, Disney!).

The Wizard Of Oz

This is one of those movies that back in the days of VHS, I watched again and again until the tape nearly disintegrated. Ahead of its time in the use of sepia tone to represent Dorothy’s normal, mundane day to day life and the use of brilliant super-saturated color to represent the fantasy dream-land of Oz, this film is iconic in the way it used color and pattern to communicate meaning, which is something I and many of my fellow artists and designers need to understand how to do in their own work. The kooky whimsy of Oz created a world every child (and adult) wanted to climb into through their television screen, even with all the not so pleasant bits like green-faced witches and flying monkeys.

A Trip To The Moon

Watching this film birthed my love of the “silent film” aesthetic – harsh contrast black and white, vintage hair and makeup, DIY props and backgrounds with lots of moons, stars, and ocean waves on painted pieces of wood or cardboard. I have always been a fan of creepy-beautiful, and there is something fundamentally haunting aesthetically about even the most cheerful silent film, because of the harsh blackness of the background, the heavy drawn-on makeup around the eyes and lips, and the fact that often times animated details that seemed darling back then, like old moon face up there, seem way creepier to us now (This will be confirmed if you’ve ever looked at old toys or dolls in an antique store) because the fashion of what is considered cute or pleasant has changed. The two portrait drawings I have used as my design logo, current and former, were certainly inspired by this aesthetic.

Moongirl

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Moongirl II

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Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

I had to include more than one shot for this film so you can fully grasp the aesthetic since it is certainly lesser known. I was perusing one of those “Weirdest movies you’ve never seen” lists online one rainy evening, and this Czechoslovakian film from 1970 was listed, along with the thumbnail of a smiling, fashionable vampire draping herself in jewels in front of an ornate little shabby-chic round mirror I have shown first above. I knew I needed to find out what this was all about. The first time I watched it I didn’t yet own a Netflix subscription, and the only version I could find on YouTube was subtitled not in English but Spanish, so I had to use my limited knowledge from grade school to try to figure out what was going on. The good news is, if any, this film is certainly more visually driven than plot driven. The plot revolving around the nightmarish oddities accompanying the protagonist, a young girl’s, first week of “womanhood” is rather bizarre and convoluted whether presented in your native tongue or not. Every still frame looks like an avant-garde fashion editorial, and the monochromatic color palette rather in whites, ivories and beiges, or blacks symbolically represents innocent purity, legalistic and puritanical piety, and corruption.

In another life where I had more patience with a sewing machine, I could totally have seen myself as a fashion designer. The first thing I thought after absorbing this movie was, “I could build a comprehensive clothing collection and smashing runaway show off of this film”. It looks like I’m not the only one who had that idea, as hand-sewn gowns inspired by Valerie can be found on etsy, and so many clothing and accessory sets assembled with this film as inspiration can be spotted on polyvore.

Brazil

In this sci-fi satire by Terry Gilliam, a government bureaucrat attempts to correct a ridiculous administrative error caused by a fly landing on a typewriter key, and in the process becomes a suspected terrorist himself. Though some of the special effects undoubtedly scream “1985!”, The sets and of course the main character’s iconic robotic flying suit are unique and surreal. Gilliam is never one to skimp on atmosphere, after all, and one can always expect in his work to see a world they have never seen before. Also, those creepy, creepy giant baby head masks in the interrogation room … I don’t know how on earth he came up with that idea, but for some reason it works.

Mirrormask

Not surprising that this movie struck me artistically as Dave McKean, a well known illustrator and comic book artist, directed the film, also written by Neil Gaiman – what a winning combination. It is almost like a modern, darker and twistier, “Wizard of Oz” actually, following one young girl’s struggle through a fantastical dream world to find her “home”. Visually, watching it is a bit like viewing a moving comic book.

The Science of Sleep

Of all the films here, along with “A Trip To The Moon”, I’d have to say this film most captures my preferred aesthetic. The story itself is at times touching, at times awkward and funny, and at times awkward and stressful – it pretty much runs the gamut of emotions present in any real-life friendship or romantic relationship. Now for the fun part – EVERYTHING IS MADE OUT OF CARDBOARD AND PAPER AND CELLOPHANE AND FELT WITH BIG, CHUNKY, APPARENT STITCHES! I hate total realism. I love work that shouts “Look! I am handmade! I am not, in fact, real!” That charming, DIY aesthetic I love in old movies that mainly occurred due to lack of budget and technology, was here done intentionally with what I’m guessing is a pretty decent budget seeing as Michel Gondry directed it. I am in love, that’s all I can say. Sir Gondry also made one of my favorite music videos ever. Enjoy.

Across The Universe

I know most hardcore Beatles fans despised this movie, arguing that the film turned the band’s culture changing music into a sort of 1960s “High School Musical”. I know many of these harsh critics personally. However, I am not hardcore and I say, pish-posh! thought this movie was just lovely. Double exposures, a surreal use of green screen, and incorporating repeated visual tropes such as “strawberries” to not only reinforce the story line but the iconic music itself, made this one a winner in my book. The visuals were crazy, but not so much so that they took away from the emotions behind the characters’ story arcs. They were unique and creative but didn’t distract, and that can be a hard balance to achieve.

The Fall

This movie makes it onto lists for “most beautiful films” or “most beautiful scenes from a film” consistently for a reason. The colors and contrast of both the scenery and wardrobe literally make the characters in the story who they are, and since this film is all about stories, that decision is pivotal. I don’t want to give too much away, just watch it if yourself if you haven’t. See that little girl right there? She’s absolutely the cutest. Just wait until she speaks, she has an accent which makes it even better.

Ghostworld

This is one of the few movies that I thought was better than the book. After watching the movie and becoming simply obsessed with it, I decided I should definitely read Daniel Clowes’s graphic novel on which it was based. I absolutely hated it. The movie itself is a quirky, aloof, slice-of-life type feature and the backdrop is a pretty normal town, nothing notable. I included this film in the list only for the main character, Enid’s, wardrobe. From 90s-tastic fuzzy headbands to leopard print pencil skirts to odd, vintage old-lady dresses to fishnets with everything to the awesome keyhole yellow and black orient-inspired number shown above, I need all of her clothes from this movie. The purple polo above looks handcrafted and has an overflowing trash can made of felt embroidered on one side with the letters spelling out “RECYCLE” crookedly affixed on the other. I have no words.

And the raptor T-shirt! Who could forget the raptor t-shirt? I want to marry Enid … Because she’s adorable, and also, then we could share clothes.

Howl’s Moving Castle

I started with animation, I figured I’d come full circle back to animation – this time, animated films that I have enjoyed as an adult. Anything Miyazaki does is gold. Studio Ghilibi is like Japan’s Disney/Pixar, only it’s kind of way better. This movie can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike. The imaginative mechanical details are what really get me. Now isn’t Howl’s bedroom a major upgrade to Ariel’s grotto?

Paprika

This film may be a cartoon, but there is nothing childish about it. See above, people are literally shedding their skin and morphing into different people, while one tries to strangle the other. His arm is also part tree branch. Yikes. At it’s core, however, this film is more a surreal, thrilling action drama tale then anything remotely horror. The premise of a device called the “DC Mini”, which allows psychiatrists to enter their patient’s dreams as a form of therapy, falling into the wrong hands allows for many magical, zany scenes to take place, both playful and beautiful as well as dark and terrifying, just as within the world of dreams. I’ve always secretly wished some technology like this actually existed even before I knew of this film or anything like it, so that is another one of the reasons I so loved this movie. Satoshi Kon was simply a brilliant artist as it is, and this film seems like it should have far too much going on for it to actually work as a story, but he has pulled it off and it is truly a masterpiece.

Mary and Max

My love for DIY as I’ve touched on a bit earlier has given me a soft spot for stop animation. I tried to make a silly, simple stop motion on paper once over a summer break from college and I threw in the towel after a couple days, lacking the patience. This film follows two pen pals; a shy, lonely little girl with a troubled family life and no friends and a middle-aged man with severe Asperger’s Syndrome, overwhelmed and bewildered by the very act of existing. The two connect by a pretty funny turn of events, and their relationship faces many ups and downs over the years, even as the young girl becomes an adult woman. Each of their somber, frustrating worlds they attempt to make sense of in their letters to each other are depicted in stunning monochromatic, hers warm sepia tones and his deep greys, both with flashes of bright red. It is one of the most adorable and also the saddest movies I’ve ever seen. By the end they are not made of clay but entirely real, flesh and blood.

Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart

I just watched this movie a couple months ago when it popped up on Netflix. It is a French children’s film that I was initially drawn to because the style of the figures reminded me of a merging of Tim Burton and Mark Ryden. It never stops being visually stunning, and the characters especially appear inventive and entrancing. It doesn’t hurt that the music is also awesome. Unlike the grating, overly simplistic, repetitive tunes often present in kids movies, the songs spread in between the action of the film actually sound like real songs.

Take a look at my absolute favorite…

I hope if there is even just one film on this list that sparks your interest, you go try it out! For the local folks, it looks like it’s supposed to rain all the next few days so here’s your chance :). Fellow creatives, movie buffs, anyone at all … do you have any films that have visually left you speechless? I’m always looking for suggestions of new things to watch, and like seeing what makes others’ creative wheels turn.

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