Did you know VRV has a lot of good movies? Like… A LOT of good movies? Well it does, and we wanted to highlight them with a weeklong celebration of cinema called Film Buff Week! Every day starting tomorrow and running through Sunday, February 18th, we’ll be highlighting a different genre of movie that’s well represented on the site. To mark this LOVELY EVENT, I decided to list out some of my favorite films on VRV below!
2008, dir. Kurt Kuenne
One of the most emotionally affecting documentaries I’ve ever seen, this film about director Kurt Kuenne’s deceased friend Andrew Bagby is a triumph of storytelling and cinematic editing. Assembled from a series of a mixture of home movies and interviews director Kuenne took from a vast array of Bagby’s friends and family, the film effortlessly weaves together a narrative more engaging than most fictional movies. Dear Zachary is smart about what and in what order it reveals information, making the surprises hit with an acute emotional impact.
2010, dir. Kim Jee-won
There are action-thrillers and then there is I Saw the Devil. When I first watched this film, I was expecting a fun if slightly dark action movie. What I got was a brutally dark, violent, and psychological exploration of the morality of revenge. Devil isn’t for the lighthearted, but for those who can tough it out, the gorgeous cinematography, kinetic editing, and surprisingly emotional plot are well worth the time investment.
2012, dir. David France
The AIDS epidemic of the late 1980s and early 1990s was a devastating event for a number of marginalized communities, and this is their story. In the face of an at best indifferent, at worst openly hostile government and healthcare industry, activists banded together to fight for changes in policy, medical research, and social programs. How to Survive a Plague isn’t just an invaluable glimpse into a period of history that isn’t often taught in history books, it’s also a heroic narrative of people willing to stand up to terrible odds for a chance at saving lives.
2010, dir. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Howl is an interesting mix of biopic, courtroom drama, and surreal animated poetry reading. Focusing on beat poet Allen Ginsberg (played here by James Franco), the movie acts less like a continuous story and more like three separate short films that cut between each other. While its scope is ambitious, the film impressively manages to synthesize these three disparate narratives into a cohesive whole — details of Ginsberg’s life give depth to the courtroom proceedings, which illuminates the animated poetry sequences, which in turn help alleviate the dryness of the more realistic segments.
2000, dir. Kinji Fukasaku
Last on our list is a film I’ve loved since high school—the bombastic high school murderfest Battle Royale. Straddling the line between campy action and gritty realism, Fukasaku’s film’s oddly charming grimness captivated Western viewers, and a DVD copy of it made the rounds among all of my friends in high school. Intense, over-the-top, and all-around well made, Battle Royale is well worth the watch if you can stomach some R-rated violence!