If you know me really well, you know that I take my entertainment seriously. Here are my top 5 shows and movies of all time.
The Leftovers (2014-2017; HBO) – Endure the overwhelming gloominess of Season 1, and then buckle up for one of the greatest modern works of art to ever grace the silver screen. I seriously mean that. Psychedelic, spiritual, and unforgettable, The Leftovers exquisitely balances its existential and religious imagery without sacrificing beautiful, abstract storytelling.
Breaking Bad (2008-2013; AMC) – I’ll admit that Breaking Bad’s neo-western genre and crime-thriller antics may not seem like my cup of tea, but Vince Gilligan’s roaring, intense portrayal of a man’s morality gone south undoubtedly reaches to Shakespearean levels. Aside from all of the iconic quotes, famous death scenes, and career-making performances, Breaking Bad remains as one of the most critically acclaimed dramas by successfully finishing character arcs, tying up loose ends (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones…), and pushing the envelope during a time when very few film critics respected television.
Flowers (2016-2018; UK Channel 4) – Flowers may seem like just another indie British dramedy, but the story soon becomes a unique combination of Henry Selick-like visuals with often biting, depressing humor. I’ve never seen a comedy that so brilliantly juggles such dark and serious topics like depression, mental illness, death, and sexuality. Olivia Coleman is to die for, and the eyegasmic and avant-garde visuals add another layer to this oddly crafted fairy tale.
Six Feet Under (2001-2005; HBO) – After being unimpressed with Season 1, for some reason, I kept watching Six Feet Under, and to this day, I’m still not sure why. Maybe it was the acting? The setting? Or its ahead-of-its-time portrayal of adultery, marriage, homosexuality, and loneliness? It’s also hard not to feel intrigued by the show’s premise: a dysfunctional family who owns and lives in a funeral home. Each episode opens with a strangely comical death scene; each episode concludes with the Fischers making more mistakes and dumb decisions. A mature and beautiful meditation on life, death, and love, the show also gets some brownie points for airing one of the greatest – if not, the greatest – series finale.
The Night Of (2016; HBO) – More streaming giants and networks should release miniseries. The Night Of, from the writers of masterworks like The Wire and Schindler’s List, starts off strong with one of the most intense, nail-biting pilots. At first a mystery, then a tragic prison drama that examines the criminal justice system, morality, and isolation, The Night Of successfully morphs into a visually arresting work of art that channels the films of Martin Scorsese and David Fincher.
Blade Runner (1982) – Ridley Scott’s sci-fi cyberpunk masterpiece stands as my favorite film of all time. I watch Blade Runner every year and every time I watch it, it blows me away. The visuals, beautiful imagery, melancholy music… Blade Runner is everything I want in a movie. Methodical in its pacing and philosophical at its heart, the film is more relevant than ever today, especially with its influence on video game and anime culture.
American Beauty (1999) – “And then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.” American Beauty is a transcendental experience and the quintessential '90s film that merges the characteristics of a soap opera with Hollywood magic. Although our thoughts and feelings on the American Dream have drastically shifted in 2019, American Beauty’s emphasis on the meaning of happiness still holds prominence today with subjects ranging from infidelity, passion, freedom, and jealously.
Mysterious Skin (2004) – This indie drama by Gregg Araki holds a special place in my heart. With a powerhouse performance by a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mysterious Skin examines two young men’s quest for acceptance and closure. Both have been victims of sexual abuse with two different coping mechanisms: one is a prostitute, and the other is plagued by visions of UFO sightings. I really don’t think there’s any other movie like Mysterious Skin.
A Clockwork Orange (1971) – No cinema fanatic can ignore the power and influence of the almighty Stanley Kubrick. His films (Full Metal Jacket, 2001, Doctor Strangelove, Eyes Wide Shut) range from the odd to the crazy. But A Clockwork Orange continues to stand out to me because of its masterful surrealism and nightmarish performance by Malcolm McDowell. Fun fact: the MPAA was so shocked by Kubrick’s film that it first received an X rating.
Taxi Driver (1976) – Martin Scorsese and Robert de Niro’s masterpiece, Taxi Driver is a disturbing trip into the mind of a man who becomes less and less sane. Examining the relationships between the powerful and powerless, and the long lasting effects of loneliness, Scorsese skillfully encapsulates '70s cinema with such ease and finesse. It’s got that dark, brooding noir vibe, but also carries a philosophical and cerebral message that is all too relevant in the divisive and isolated society we live in today.