What’s in my queue: Navigating Netflix like a film critic

By HUDSON REYNOLDS, Features Writer

 

Ida (2013) [PG-13]

This thought-provoking Polish film won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

In the 1960s, a young nun, who knows nothing outside of her orphaned Catholic upbringing, faces an existential crisis when a woman claiming to be her aunt arrives. Her aunt tells her she is Jewish and was hidden in the orphanage to escape a concentration camp.

As she gets to know her aunt and explores the outside world, the nun must face the choice between taking her vows to the Catholic Church or following a separate path entirely. Beautifully shot in black and white with Oscar-nominated cinematography and an engaging, highly original plot, this spectacle leaves the viewer pondering mixed emotions.

 

The Secret of Kells (2009) [PG]

This unconventional, Oscar-nominated animated feature film follows a young boy named Brendan in a medieval Irish village preparing for the invasion of Vikings. When an elderly man brings an unfinished, ancient book that turns darkness into light, Brendan must finish the book by obtaining materials in a mystical forest.

There he discovers a fairy to help him complete the book and an ancient evil. Drawing heavily from the origin story of “The Book of Kells” and Celtic mythology, the film is surprisingly powerful for its fantastical premise. The film is also visually mesmerizing with eye-popping aesthetics, making the film a must-see for fans of animated features.

 

Following (1998) [R]

Christopher Nolan’s first feature film often goes completely unrecognized by his vast fan base. Those who admire his recent, large-budget films should give this one a try. Though the film had a very low budget and is featured entirely in black and white, the film is well worth the entertaining hour and nine-minute run time.

The film follows a young writer with the growing obsession of following random strangers. After being caught in the act of following by a well-kept burglar, an odd friendship develops as the thief teaches the young writer the art of home invasion. With non-linear storytelling and plenty of plot twists and turns, Nolan’s impressive debut leaves the viewer with the need to revisit this exquisitely unpredictable mind-bender.

 

Poetry (2010) [UR]

This overwhelming, emotional South Korean film takes tear-jerking to a new extreme. An aging woman with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease searches for beauty in life after discovering her grandson is complicit in horrendous acts resulting in a young girl’s suicide.

With incredibly believable acting, excellent pacing that keeps the viewer engaged and a realistic screenplay, this quality drama merges into the realm of cinematic realism. It leaves even the most hard-hearted viewers in emotional shambles as writer/director Lee Chang-Dong portrays a scenario nothing short of heart-shattering.

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