By: Bailey Hart
The most common view of film is one of a sort of vague, passing interest. Film is an occasional break from reality in which, for about two hours, the audience is transported to an ideal world, one in which characters can immediately recognize obstacles, and eventually overcome them, where it is easy to delineate the good from the evil. There are definite destinies, and definite answers. These worlds are simple and clearly defined, and millions of filmgoers can easily be entranced by and understand characters and their struggles.
The most important films, however, are the ones that transcend this basic formula. These films take full advantage of the wide scope and the many possibilities of cinema, utilizing sound, imagery, movement, immersion, characters, music, drama, and emotional appeals. The best filmmakers are the ones that realize the immense possibility of film, and use it to express emotions and ideas, creating films that connect, that inspire, and that totally immerse the audience in the filmmaker’s invented or expressed reality.
Take such a film as Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, which originated as a screenplay by Paul Schrader. The screenplay emerged from a combination of political unrest, sexual frustrations, and general distaste for society. It was angry and romantic, simple yet emotionally complex and innovative by way of its obscene honesty. Schrader’s intensely personal and introspective screenplay reflected the struggles of a generation. Realizing this, director Martin Scorsese translated the screenplay to the screen with technical mastery, planning out every shot in detail days in advance, and thoroughly studying the complexities of the script. The visual style of Taxi Driver is inspired and unique, emphasizing the paranoia and insecurities of the main character whilst showcasing the very best and the very worst of 1970’s New York City, a city ripe with sin and sexual deviancy. Taxi Driver is a timeless film that expresses societal frustration as classical as Hamlet and as modern as political rants on Twitter. It is a film that exists not in an ideal reality with answers, but in the reality of the filmmakers, with no release from characters’ frustrations, and no real solution in sight. As such, it is a heartbreakingly honest film.
The true success of Taxi Driver lies in the fact that the movie does exist in our reality. Taxi Driver is as much about the taxi driver Travis Bickle as it is about Martin Scorsese, about Paul Schrader, and about anybody who’s felt an unquenchable thirst for justice in society. It’s a reflection of real passions and of real emotions, and it’s delivered with an intensity that goes unmatched in the majority of works of any art form.
Films of this level of craftsmanship are rare, and deserve to be treated as such. Still, such films go unnoticed and unwatched by many, as the challenging nature of the content keeps many at bay. This is especially true in the cinema climate of today, where major studios are more interested in continuing franchises and making money than supporting original artistic content. Luckily, the independent film surges on, garnering little attention or money from the American public, but much recognition from the film community at large. Just this year, we’ve had Tangerine, a genre-defying film about the struggles of being transgender in today’s society, filmed entirely with iPhone 5s, as well as many other artistic triumphs such as Chi-Raq, Love and Mercy, Room, Sicario, and the recent releases Brooklyn and Spotlight.
These films are not made with the intention to be financially successful, nor were they to be cultural phenomenons. These films are filled with a certain artistic integrity and a healthy dose of emotional resonance, with characters and messages that will span generations, and almost undoubtedly leave an impact on any person who stumbles across them. These films inspire one to act, and incite powerful and meaningful discussion, portraying philosophical and psychological issues in wholly unique and inspired ways.
Films SHOULD be controversial. Great films WILL NOT be loved by everybody. GREAT films, regardless, are filled with ambition and personal resonance, with creativity, and with immense understanding of the craft of filmmaking. They may be impressively innovative, or they may rely on genre standards and references to other influential filmmakers to get across emotional ideas. Either way, great films are absolutely driven, and they are undeniably powerful. Great films deserve to be celebrated, studied, discussed, and cherished.
Here is a list of great films that are available on Netflix: