SCA students recommend favorite media of the year

There’s a lot of content out there. Finding the best media to pass the time can become a bit overwhelming. To help you separate must-see media from casual, second-screen viewing, the Daily Trojan spoke to students at the School of Cinematic Arts, one from each of its six undergraduate programs, and asked which media from this year were truly “essential.” 

“Spider-Man: Into The Spider-verse”

“By far, my favorite [film] to come out of animation last year was ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,’ and I say this as someone who really dislikes superhero movies. In an age where 3-D animation dominates the animation industry, stylistic animation has been rare, as studios tend to lean toward realism in CG. This has culminated in most CG movies having almost the exact same look, regardless of studio. I loved ‘Spider-Verse’ so much because it was such a drastic departure from the conventions of 3-D animation. Instead of striving for realism, ‘Spider-Verse’ did the opposite: they made the movie look like a living, breathing comic book. By using graphic shading, animating on 12 frames per second and incorporating many hand drawn elements into the movie, ‘Spider-Verse’ differentiated itself from the hyper-realism of most CG movies. With its success, it will hopefully open the door for more experimentation in the styles of 3-D animation!” 

– Meg Howes, junior, animation & digital arts 


“The reason ‘Euphoria’ should be the priority on anyone’s TV watchlist this year is simple: It is a show about teenagers for everyone. It captures the isolation felt by a generation raised on the internet [and] the disconnect between teenagers and their elders as a result of their parents’ inability to understand the very ‘adult’ problems they face nowadays. The ensemble of characters struggle with their own uniquely mature problems, and the show in no way sugarcoats them. Body image, sex work, domestic abuse, toxic masculinity and addiction are all heavy themes — a television show [touching] upon them in its first eight episodes, especially under the umbrella of adolescence, is ballsy. While shows targeted at and centered around teens in the past have also dealt with similar themes, very few have been as graphic and up-close-and-personal as ‘Euphoria.’ The incredible script and powerhouse cast devoid of weak links, combined with a colorful soundtrack, unique cinematography and thought-provoking artistic direction, make ‘Euphoria’ one of the coolest and most innovative new TV shows for young people in recent years.”

– Krupa Naik, junior, cinema & media studies


“Mind you, I have never actually seen this movie in English, but I did not need to understand all of the words for ‘Climax,’ the newest movie from director Gaspar Noé, to be one of the most memorable movies I’ve seen recently. The plot is extremely simple: A French dance troupe gathers in a remote building to rehearse and celebrate, someone spikes their drinks with LSD and things go very poorly. What unfolds is some of the most beautifully shot dance and terribly disturbing horror sequences imaginable. Noé’s bass-heavy 80/90s dance music soundtrack and mesmerizing ‘ghost train’ camera work makes ‘Climax’ something to be experienced, not watched. The movie’s prevalent use of improvisation allows the characters and their relationships to feel organic even as their perceptions become further and further distorted ‘Climax’ does what the greatest horror does — reveal something about the monsters lurking within everyday people.”

– Luke Greenwood, sophomore, media arts & practice

“Hypnospace Outlaw”

“I only recently played Hypnospace Outlaw for the first time. [However], I know that [it won’t be my] last. There’s so much to do in this seemingly simple simulation. You play as a member of the Hypnospace Patrol Department, making sure those who visit certain sites are behaving within the Hypnospace guidelines. The game is visually captivating, [parodying] the internet in the 90s so your screen is going to be a jumble of neon colors, Comic Sans font and weird pixel art drawings at any given moment. The music and sound effects also help magnify the setting and made me feel like I was playing on an early PC, not my gaming laptop. The puzzles and objectives require more attention and increase in complexity as the game continues. When I finished these puzzles, I felt such a strong sense of gratification. This game is fun, captivating and hilarious. I would recommend it to absolutely anyone.”

– Mattie Rosen, junior, interactive entertainment


“The first season of ‘Fleabag’ was about as perfect as a season of television can be, but the second season is just gorgeous. While Season 1 gave us the story of a woman continually contributing to her own destruction, Season 2 is about that same woman making an effort to change for the better. Ultimately, this is how ‘Fleabag’ elevates itself above other dark comedies of its ilk — it pays off its own fourth wall-breaking style in a way that feels authentic to its main character, and ultimately to her character growth. ‘Fleabag’ talks directly to us, the audience, to avoid connecting with other people [which] is what makes the final shot of the series so stunningly powerful. I have a thousand things to say about the way Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes characters, formulates jokes and expresses the unique pain and pleasure of womanhood, but it would probably be faster to just watch the show.”

– Hannah Cesleski, senior, writing for film & television


“My must-see film for 2019 is Ari Aster’s ‘Midsommar’. Coming off his 2018 instant classic, ‘Hereditary’, Aster takes us into a world that is a polar opposite to any I have ever seen depicted in the horror genre … It is almost entirely set during the daytime under the gaze of the sun. Very few horror films have taken on this challenge. Having horror play out when everything is visible to the eye is no piece of cake. The lack of light in dark spaces, whether that be indoors or outdoors, is a tool that the majority of horror films rely on for the purposes of creating jump scares. ‘Midsommar,’ however, shows us the horror of what this town does to people without trying to make us jump. In this way, the film is much more disturbing and discomforting because it is so graphic and visible. After nearly 2.5 hours I came out of the theater with this sick feeling in my stomach. My reality seemed off. Aster’s collaborations with his cinematographer, Pawel Pogorzelski, and his production designer, Henrik Svensson, are highlighted with the architecture and design of the village and [its] shot compositions. Even if horror is not your favorite genre, I recommend seeing ‘Midsommar’ to observe Aster’s masterful control over the audience. ‘Midsommar’ is not just a film, but an experience — an experience that has to be witnessed in the movie theater.”

– Graham Byers, sophomore, film & television production