“Stuck in Love”
In the same vein of “The Spectacular Now” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” this movie drips in nostalgia — a feeling I, and likely many others, have been experiencing more acutely during quarantine.
The movie, as it eponymously implies, is about being stuck — in love, in the past, in our routines, in the stubborn ways we do things and live our lives. In its relatively short 96-minute runtime, the film touches on several themes: change, denial, healing, the passage of time, second chances, self-determination, hope and trust.
“Stuck in Love” speaks volumes with nuance and minimalism, and it shouts from the rooftops while remaining quiet, observant and vulnerable. The film plays out like a pang in the heart, and it accomplishes its goal of being both cynical and romantic without trying too hard. Simply put, “Stuck in Love” lets you feel sad when you need to wallow in melancholy and gives you hope when you desperately need it.
For good reason, this film shaped me as a teenager, as did Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” referenced in the closing scene. Don’t even get me started on its soundtrack and the way it arguably transformed a whole generation into still-yearning adolescents on Tumblr. ’Twas a cultural reset, so I’ll give it a pass for being as painfully white as it is.
Ultimately, this movie is a love letter to many things — namely love (bet you didn’t see that one coming), weed (sorry, couldn’t resist) and damn good literature. The perfect blend of humor and sadness, “Stuck in Love” is the quintessential movie to describe the concurrent, fleeting whirlwind of emotions you’re probably experiencing right now.
— Natalie Oganesyan, associate managing editor
“Set It Up”
I’m not normally one to buy into those movies about being swept up into whirlwind city romances. And I’d never really understood the romantic appeal of a place as crowded, noisy and fast-paced as New York City — that is, until I watched this movie the summer before my freshman year at USC.
Since then, “Set It Up” has been a go-to of mine for anything from Friday night hangouts with friends to snapping myself out of late-night sad girl hours; that is why I’ve watched it three times (so far) while stuck in quarantine.
While it’s not the most nuanced story, this light-hearted rom-com is loveable in so many ways. Chief among them is the natural chemistry between actors Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell. Their characters, Harper and Charlie, have delightfully witty banter throughout the film, and it’s sweet to watch their mutual annoyance for one another slowly grow into a friendship and eventual romantic attraction.
I also fall back on this movie because of its truly eclectic soundtrack, full of oldies ranging from The Del-Vikings’ 1957 “Come Go With Me,” to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ 1965 “Nowhere to Run” and Dire Straits’ 1981 “Romeo and Juliet.” From doo-wop and R&B to roots rock, the carefully curated tracks in “Set It Up” speak to love and its innumerable forms across the decades.
But what really brings me back to this movie is its emphasis on quality connection and time well spent with the people that matter most. Whether you’re from a major city like New York or not, it’s bittersweet to be reminded of how most of us would be enjoying late spring and early summer. From lazy afternoons spent by the pool and nighttime rooftop parties to baseball games and leisurely walks with friends, “Set It Up” makes me nostalgic for what could have been but hopeful that better times are on the horizon.
— Catherine Orihuela, arts & entertainment editor
“The Defiant Ones”
I don’t read self-help books. I grew up with “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” learning about perseverance and self-realization from Maya Angelou’s narrative. Listening to the stories of my father rigorously studying for the bar exam and almost having to repeat his third year of law school was my version of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” or “The 48 Laws of Power.”
The stories of real people are far more empowering than pop psychology books, at least for me. I want to be inspired, not lectured.
The lives and careers of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, as told in HBO’s four-part documentary series “The Defiant Ones,” is one of those stories. For those who don’t know about one of music’s most prolific friendships, Iovine and Dre are responsible for Dre’s album “The Chronic,” songs by N.W.A., 2Pac, Eminem, 50 Cent and many other creative endeavors.
Though well past their 50s, Dre and Iovine are cool, to put it plainly. They’ve worked with everyone and say all the right things about pushing past fears, getting serious about your craft and working smart, not hard. Instead of a lecture from a professor about the importance of hard work, “The Defiant Ones” is a fitting title for a relaxed but motivating watch that forces the viewer to think about turning their dreams into powerful realities by defying traditional rationale.
Moments where Iovine tells the story of working on Bruce Springsteen’s iconic “Born to Run” album or Dre discusses his early beginnings working with turntables and making beats will strike with those feeling stuck or uninspired during this quarantine. Through archival footage, bits of the two recounting dicey career moves paired with eerily perfect music placement, the series will leave you in awe of how two men from humble beginnings created a legacy.
— Ellice Ellis, arts & entertainment editor
“My Life as a Zucchini”
I signed up for the Criterion Channel after I saw French director Céline Sciamma’s 2019 feature “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” for the nth time in the theater pre-pandemic. Her other works, including “Water Lilies” and “Tomboy,” dove into themes of sexuality, femininity and androgyny with such delicacy that as she gave herself to her films, I was returning a piece of myself by watching.
Sciamma’s work is unique in that its simplicity heightens the senses, especially her minimal scoring and long takes as characters take in one another. So when I was browsing her other credits and saw that she wrote the screenplay for the stop-motion feature “My Life as a Zucchini,” which was nominated for the 2017 Oscar for Best Animated Feature, I had to take a look to see a different side of her.
The film’s marketing as a family movie might not surprise the French-Swiss industry it was born of, but it handles issues such as addiction, abuse and loss in a way that leaves you speechless as much as it does your parents. Courgette (the French word for zucchini) arrives at an orphanage after the loss of his mother and meets other children who have seen their parents arrested, overdose or leave. I will be honest, it gets grim at some points, but being able to see the world through a child’s sensibility, with its vulnerability and unbounded optimism, left me with happy tears in its wake.
“My Life as a Zucchini” doesn’t leave me confused, rushing to the internet to find out at which exact point I got lost in its meaning. It is an incredibly simple and sweet look at childhood, friendship and family, offering the perfect sense of companionship that envelopes you when you need it most.
— Lauren Mattice, digital managing editor