by Camille Borodey
Younger Man and Older Woman
The Graduate (HBO Max): After graduating college, a somber Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) wants some time to relax and think about his future. After being seduced by a longtime family friend, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft ), Benjamin finds himself stuck in a cycle of lies and confusion, which gets even more complicated when he falls in love with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine.
Harold and Maude (Amazon Prime): Harold is a directionless young man obsessed with death, and to his mother’s annoyance, he consistently stages fake suicide attempts. While attending a stranger’s funeral, a regular hobby, Harold meets Maude (Ruth Gordon), an eccentric older woman who has lived a full and exciting life and gives Harold some much-needed perspective on how he can finally begin his.
Both films are satirical black comedies about the upper class Californians in the late 60s early 70s, show the divide between younger and older generations, and feature iconic movie soundtracks (Simon and Garfunkel for “The Graduate” and Cat Stevens for “Harold and Maude”). The film’s protagonists are both painfully awkward young men who live ridiculously lavish lives while also drowning in their parent’s high expectations.
Classic + Modern Jane Austen
Emma (Rent on Amazon Video): What makes Emma Woodhouse my favorite Jane Austen heroine is she’s one of the few who doesn’t need to rely on marriage for her livelihood. There have been countless adaptations of “Emma,” but director Autumn de Wilde puts her spin on the story. Plus, she avoids the trap of turning it into a generic regency romance and does a wonderful job capturing the humor, drama, and wit of Austen’s arguably most complex story. Anya Joy Taylor is delightful as the title character making Gwyneth Paltrow’s portrayal (1996 version) feel dull pretty dull.
Clueless (HBO Max): Alicia Silverston plays Cher, a beautiful, rich, and spoiled high school who befriends a new student, Tai (RIP Brittney Murphy) goes on a mission to boost her popularity by giving her a makeover. As far as teen comedies from the 90s go, “Clueless” has aged really well, the fashion is still iconic, and by transforming our story from 1800s English to modern-day Beverly Hills, “Clueless” proves that Austen’s observations about class, love, and friendship are timeless.
If you’re a fan of Austen’s work, go ahead and start with “Emma,” but “Clueless” is an excellent gateway to Austen. Plus, since Clueless is more of a retelling than an adaptation, pairing it with the other film won’t feel repetitive.
Noir Murder Mystery
Vertigo (Amazon Prime): Scottie (Jimmy Stewart), a retired detective who suffers from fear of heights and Vertigo, gets hired to investigate his close friend’s wife, Madeline (Kim Novak). It doesn’t take long for Scottie to become captivated by this angelic and enigmatic woman, but falling in love with Madeline is only the beginning of his whirlwind investigation. While many critics regard “Vertigo” as Alfred Hitchock’s most outstanding achievement, I personally rank it as my 7th favorite. Still, there is no denying it may be his most aesthetically stylistic film.
Chinatown (Netflix & Amazon Prime): J. J. “Jake” Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a successful private eye investigating the murder of the chief engineer at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Hollis Mulwray. Jake’s findings keep leading him back to Hollis’ wife Evelyn (Faye Dunaway), an elegant woman who may not be who she seems. The 1974 movie may be set in the 30s, but it manages to be a well-paced, engaging mystery without relying on campy noir tropes. Screenwriter Robert Towne crafted an original mystery, and Nicholson’s performance reminds us why he’s considered a legendary actor.
Any discussion of classic American noir mystery films will usually include “Vertigo” and “Chinatown.” Both movies are incredibly layered, unpredictable, and our main detective becomes captivated by a mysterious woman. On the first watch, many may misinterpret Novak and Dunaway’s performances as wooden, but once finishing each movie, you realize both actresses masterfully portray wounded women desperately hiding under icy exteriors.
The Mind-Bending Horror
Hereditary (Rent on Amazon Video)
Ari Aster made his memorable directorial debut with “Hereditary.” Annie (Toni Collette), a miniaturist artist, has mixed feelings about the death of her private mother. She also appears to have strained relationships with her 16-year-old son, Peter, her 13-year-old daughter, Charlie, who displays reclusive and creepy behavior. We learn that Annie’s family is plagued with mental illness, and a generational curse begins to seep its way into their lives.
In Aster’s sophomore film, Dani (Florence Pugh) is a grieving graduate student who travels to a Swedish summer festival with her self-absorbed boyfriend and his group of friends. At first, the festival seems to be a pleasant and almost ethereal getaway, but a terrifying ritual proves that something bizarre is happening in this remote village. Even more disorienting is night never seems to come as the entire story takes place in bright daylight.
I don’t want to tell you too much about Aster’s two films for fear of giving anything away, but this double feature is not for the faint of heart. Both films focus heavily on grief, and some of the most horrifying moments are not always the supernatural ones but the real ones. Strong and complex female leads haven’t exactly been the common trope in horror movies, but years from now, critics will still wonder why Toni Colette and Florence Pughs’ performances were overlooked during award season.
BIO: Camille moved to Kettle Falls from Western Washington last year. She works as a writer and social media manager. When she’s not writing about movies, she enjoys cooking, gardening, and competitive kettlebell lifting.