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Life-Altering Films: The Tale of My Letterboxd Top Four

Letterboxd. By Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
By J.J. Moore, Crimson Staff Writer

“...Do you have letterboxd?”

Since the moment I arrived at college, I find myself constantly asking this question. I have been on Letterboxd since last year and I could have never anticipated the connections that I have built through this app, the enlightening criticism that I have received from friends, and how addicted I am to recording every movie that I see. Since I was young, I have always looked for a place to put down all of my thoughts about films. I made posts, wrote scattered reviews, and ultimately found my way to Letterboxd — truly the place for every movie lover to go. It has been one of the best ways for me to build relationships with other cinephiles and document my time as a moviegoer.

So without further ado, I will bare a piece of my soul to readers everywhere and reveal my top four films on Letterboxd. They have not changed since I got this app, and I feel as though they ultimately document a deeply personal history of my cinematic interests.

1. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” — dirs. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

On April 16, 2022, my life changed as I watched “Everything Everywhere All at Once” for the first time. The rare perfect film, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” magically combines wonderful, heartfelt acting, a story to remember, beautiful cinematography, editing to match, and a score that pulls on your heartstrings. I felt every emotion that day, some in combinations that I didn’t even think possible. I owe The Daniels a debt of gratitude for that mind-blowing experience.

When I think about this film, I cannot help but repeat the words of my first review. Everything Everywhere All at Once reminded me of when I first watched the fight scenes in "Kingsman: The Secret Service" and thought: There are going to be a hundred directors wanting to do the same thing and never be able to pull it off. This movie pulled it off in every way possible.

Since its release last year, I have seen it nearly ten times and have yet to get bored. If this was not ranked as my favorite film of all time, it would be a crime.

2. “Whiplash” — dir. Damien Chazelle

A good ending makes a movie. The ending of “Whiplash” is one that every filmmaker should turn to, gawk at, and try their hardest to replicate. This film knows what it wants to do and achieves it successfully. It is nearly perfect from beginning to end — the lighting accurately matches the tone, the acting is incredible, the plot never drags, and, most of all, the music and visuals are absolutely stunning.

“Whiplash” is so good that it left me feeling breathless. As the film came to a close — the drums building in tempo, Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons smiling at each other, and the final note ringing out — my heart swelled and my fingers grew sweaty. I knew that no other film would be able to match the pressure, drive, tempo, and tension that I felt in that moment.

In times of pressure, sadness, anxiety, and stress, I always turn to this film. I play the end sequence over and over again like I am an obsessed drummer trying to learn it from front to back. I have never listened to a score more than the one Justin Hurwitz ’08 created for this film. In fact, it has actually snuck its way into my top five most played songs on Spotify before.

3. “1917” — dir. Sam Mendes

I have never been a fan of war movies, and before I watched “1917,” I did not expect my mind to change. And yet, as soon as I turned this movie on, I was engrossed within the first few minutes. I fell in love with this film not for its content, but for its technical mastery: The film is shot to look like one continuous take. This means that the sets had to be perfect — matched to the exact length and time of the shot — and the sequences timed. For the cast and crew, the rehearsals must have been exhausting.

For me, this film embodies what my art teachers meant when they said, “Any mistake can be turned into a work of art.” The shot with George MacKay running across a field, trying to catch up to the camera after an unscripted fall, contains the artful mistake that inspired me to want to be a filmmaker. Without this film, I would not be writing a review for The Crimson, taking film classes, or obsessed with the intricacies of being on a set. “1917” made me realize how meticulous the process of designing a movie is and how difficult it is to be a director — but most of all, it made me fall in love with the art of cinematography.

4. “Midsommar” — dir. Ari Aster

Picking the right movie for the final spot in my top four was a really difficult choice. I spent a long time thinking about what films have altered how I watch movies and, most importantly, what films have stuck with me the most after watching them.

As it happens, Florence Pugh’s cries have refused to leave my mind since I initially watched “Midsommar” with my dad. I have been a big fan of Ari Aster since his short films on Youtube, including “C’est La Vie” and “Beau.” Therefore, I would be remiss to not acknowledge him as one of my favorite horror movie directors.

When I watched “Midsommar” in theaters, it was the first time I saw people leave and demand their money back. In light of Aster’s new release, “Beau is Afraid,” I recently heard someone say, “A good film should make people walk out of the theater.” When this happens, it means that the film has done its job in making people feel some sort of emotion: happy, sad, disgusted, bored, horrified — although some are terrible emotions, they are feelings nonetheless. “Midsommar” was the first horror film I’ve ever seen that felt like a mix of creepy and comforting. I spent weeks following my first watch wondering why I was smiling and nodding at the end — only a great film can make one do that.

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