Friday, December 1, 2023

NBP’s Quarantine Film Festival (Day 2)

By Dan Bayer 
Welcome everyone to day two of the Next Best Picture Quarantine Film Festival! I hope you enjoyed our first day of programming, inspired by staying inside with our families and how they get on our nerves. For today, I wanted to focus on getting outside. I know that for me, going outside, even with my face covered by a mask – which is in turn covered by a bandana – still feels like something we shouldn’t be doing. But sunshine and fresh air are vital to feeling alive when we’re cooped up inside for days on end. So here are some ways you can get out and see the beauty of the world without having to leave the safety of your abode.

​Free Solo (2018)

Let’s start the day with the story of a man compelled to go outside and risk his life. Surely, if Alex Honnold can climb El Capitan without any assistance, we can go for a walk around the block! This Oscar-winning documentary sports some of the most jaw-dropping cinematography seen in many a year, and actually grapples with things that documentaries rarely choose to: Should this person even be doing this, and should this crew even be filming it? As a bonus, “Free Solo” makes a sainted hero out of Honnold’s girlfriend, giving us an in-depth look at what it’s like to be in a relationship with someone completely obsessed with something else… something I think a lot of us can relate to right now.

Streaming on: Hulu

To Catch A Thief (1955)

Let’s get some glamour, shall we? Jet off to the French Riviera with Cary Grant’s suave reformed jewel thief and Grace Kelly’s beautiful heiress with an irresistible collection of diamonds. The most luxe, gorgeous film Hitchcock ever shot, “To Catch a Thief” is a primo product of its era, with super cinematography to capture the sumptuous costume and production design. So revel in the bright sunshine, cool water, and shiny jewels and enjoy some pure Hollywood escapism.

Streaming on: Amazon Prime

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Let’s stick with the glamorous Hollywood international caper theme for a bit and head to the Italian coast with Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cate Blanchett, all at their most beautiful. Anthony Minghella’s version of Patricia Highsmith’s novel is a prime example of a great adaptation, showing the seedier side of the galavanting trust fund kid lifestyle of the idle rich in the 1950s. Its thrills are more psychological, though, and the performances keep you riveted as we find ourselves falling under the spell of these terrible people, just as Damon’s sociopathic Tom Ripley becomes more and more obsessed with Law’s egotistical Dickie Greenleaf. The scenery, beautifully shot by John Seale, will take your breath away.

Streaming on: Netflix

Under The Tuscan Sun (2003)

Let’s stay in Italy for a bit and lighten the mood with this delightful gem starring Diane Lane. Based on Frances Mayes’ bestselling memoir, the film is about a recently-divorced woman who buys a dilapidated villa in Tuscany hoping it will change her life. The setting is gorgeous, and Lane’s Golden Globe-nominated performance is as warm and golden as that Tuscan sun. Yes, it’s conventional and competent, but it’s the kind of aspirational comfort food that we could all use right now… and especially before the last two films.

Streaming on: Hulu

Monos (2019)

Simply the most jaw-dropping cinematography of all last year, which happened to be a particularly strong year for jaw-dropping cinematography! The intense story of a group of teenage guerilla fighters in Colombia tasked with watching a hostage (Julianne Nicholson, great as always) was Colombia’s submission for last year’s International Feature Oscar, and watching it, it’s not exactly surprising that it didn’t get nominated. This is a strange story, but it unfolds hypnotically, with Mica Levi contributing another unsettling score to go with Jasper Wolf’s stunning cinematography. “Monos” unfolds like a brutal nightmare, one that’s impossible to look away from as it pulls you in with gorgeous image after gorgeous image.

Streaming on: Hulu

​Midsommar (2019)

​Ari Aster’s heart-stopping folk horror-inspired second feature “Midsommar” is one hell of a bad trip full of sun-drenched cinematography as Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, and their friends travel to a remote Swedish village for the once-every-ninety-years Midsummer festival, with its nearly 24 hours of sun. The way the film subtly portrays the effects of hallucinogenic drugs may be the closest any film has ever come to doing so accurately, and those visual effects have an almost symbiotic relationship with the blown-out color grading of Pawel Pogorzelski’s cinematography. The brighter than bright light that permeates the whole film will make you want to close your eyes like on a hot summer day, but Florence Pugh’s tremendous performance will ensure they stay riveted to the screen, all the way through to the chilling finale.

Streaming on: Amazon Prime

Have any ideas for future film festival theme days? Have you watched any of our suggestions? Let us know! in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.

You can follow Dan and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars & Film on Twitter at @dancindanonfilm

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Dan Bayer
Dan Bayer
Performer since birth, tap dancer since the age of 10. Life-long book, film and theatre lover.

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