Call it “Netflix Wrapped” if you will. Believe it or not, I got Netflix for the first time in my life this September. Previously, I was used to watching free movies on Amazon Prime or using the blessing of Kanopy, available through my school libraries in high school and college.
Netflix was a game changer, and in September, I started tracking which movies I watched. I honestly can’t remember what I watched this year before then (except for Cinema Paradiso and Farewell My Concubine) – though I love movies, I didn’t have much time during the school year to watch full-length films. However, I committed to crossing a lot of items off my to-watch list in the last few months of 2020, and it was well worth the many late nights and scrambling to finish school assignments that followed.
Some fun facts:
- I watched a total of 48 full-length movies. (I didn’t include all of them on this post because some are… explicit.) Given that I watched basically all of them within 4 months, that’s a pretty impressive number.
- I watched movies in Mandarin/Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Italian, and English.
- Average year of movies watched: 2004, median year: 2010 (I gotta pump those numbers down, those are rookie numbers… I have to watch older movies.)
- I usually can’t pick one favorite movie when asked; my list of favorites includes Whiplash, The Dark Knight, Persona, Memories of Murder (살인의 추억), Gone With The Wind, In the Mood for Love, and more. However, I think I finally found a candidate for my #1 movie: Farewell My Concubine (1993) by Chen Kaige. This movie was so ambitious and grand in its scope, turbulent in its history and politics, painful, complex, visually striking, and thought-provoking. All the elements of film – the acting, the production sets, cinematography, direction, editing, script, plot, and themes were all so masterful. I may dedicate a blog post to this movie sometime in the future.
- Quick opinion: because Marriage Story went semi-viral, everyone loved it. Of course I understand why – Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver give great performances, and Noah Baumbach’s script is realistic and tearjerking. However, after also watching Revolutionary Road (2008) starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, I can definitively say that Revolutionary Road is the better “disintegrating marriage” movie. The two movies are slightly different in their focus – the former is about divorce proceedings, and the latter is about a marriage starting to unravel. But Revolutionary Road evokes the more palpable, claustrophobic setting of 1950s suburban ennui through its meticulous set design, and the film juggles themes of quarter-life crisis, pursuing of giving up dreams, societal and community pressure, and sacrifice in addition to marriage troubles. Similar to Marriage Story, the two leading stars’ performances are arresting and spine-chilling. I really recommend that you check out the lesser-known Revolutionary Road.
*I lived in South Korea for most of 2020, so fortunately I could go to movie theaters when COVID-19 cases were low.
Movies that were especially memorable, moving, and enjoyable are in blue text. I highly recommend that you all watch those movies.
Here’s a shorter list of my recommendations, focusing on movies that are not very well-known to the general American public.
- Cinema Paradiso (1988)
- Farewell My Concubine (1993)
- Mudbound (2017) – Available on Netflix
Side note: The Social Network (2010) and Birdman (2014) are more famous, but they are must-watches as well.