Shayna: I’ve been in a David Cronenberg frame of mind lately, and after watching Crash — a brutal, totally visceral film experience that you can somehow find on YouTube — I felt like slipping further down the rabbit hole with eXistenZ. While this 1999 film didn’t leave me curled up in the fetal position and near tears like Crash did, it does provide plenty of bleak takeaways about the state of human existence. Plus it stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, who pretty much owns in everything.
Set in a not-so-distant future where people can enter virtual realities and video-game designers are fawned over like rock stars (so perhaps not so unlike today), eXistenZ also stars a young Jude Law and features appearances from Willem Dafoe and Sarah Polley. Leigh is frosty and vaguely menacing here as Allegra, the designer of the not-yet-released game eXistenZ. After someone tries to kill her during a focus group session, Allegra is forced to go on the run with Ted (Law), a security guard/would-be “PR nerd” tasked with protecting her and helping ensure the survival of the game itself.
Admittedly, the plot gets Gordian-knot levels of convoluted very quickly, making it difficult to keep track of characters, corporate espionage subplots and even what reality the characters happen to be in most of the time. But the real attraction in eXistenZ is the atmosphere and the props that go along with it. There’s a gun made of bones, which fires teeth and is dripping with slimy viscera. The “bio-pods” used by players to access the game look like squishy embryos and mew contentedly when rubbed the right way. Once inside the game, Ted and Allegra are compelled by its power to follow game script, which at one point leads to an all-you-can-eat feast on mutated frog parts.
It’s wild. While the film feels very much like a product of its time, more aged and less visionary than earlier Cronenberg works like Videodrome and The Fly, eXistenZ is necessary viewing for body horror and sci-fi aficionados alike.
Evan: Do you enjoy feeling terrible like I do? Then you’ll love Don Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day! Don Hertzfeldt (whom you may know for his animated short Rejected or from a few particularly bonkers episodes of The Simpsons) narrates this hour-long tale of a man named Bill whose life we piece together in non-linear fragments. The animation style is rustic and simple and Hertzfeldt’s narration feels unprofessional, which lends to the short’s charm. This short will ruin your life for at least a day. You will spend the following night without sleep contemplating your own existence and the Earth’s ultimate smallness in the face of the universe. Sound fun? If it does, then you’ll really enjoy It’s Such a Beautiful Day just as I did.
John: C’mon, are you kidding?! Ferris Bueller is a classic! Not every movie we suggest is a Sundance indie gem. We love fun movies, too!
From the fourth-wall breaking to the epic Charlie Sheen cameo, Ferris Bueller is one of the best high school movies of all time. This one is an inspiring story that encourages high schoolers to lie to the their parents, cut class, strong-arm their best friends, and allow their principals to be nearly mutilated by their Rottweilers. What more could ya want?
In semi-seriousness, though, the parade-crashing sequence is enough to give you chills. I wouldn’t say I wanted to be Ferris Bueller in high school, but I can say I thought he was a character most of us could learn a thing or two from.* However, the concept of taking yourself a little less seriously, doing something you’ve always wanted to do but were afraid of, and spending time with the ones you care about doing what makes you happy is one I think we can all get behind. It’s a movie, if John Hughes wasn’t over-imaginative we wouldn’t know who the hell he was, and the point of his movie would be lost.
*DISCLAIMER: Motion State does not promote nor condone stealing your dad’s Porsche or ditching school to have a little fun. If and when you do that, though, be sure to send us pictures.
Patrick: Can anyone guess what the documentary Living on One Dollar is about? If you guessed it’s about a person or people living on one dollar, then congratulations! You have met the minimum intelligence requirement to read Motion State Review! It is, in fact, a documentary about four friends who move to rural Guatemala for two months and attempt to emulate the hardships of everyday life in the poor village by living on one dollar a day. Well, actually, that’s not entirely accurate. Rather, they keep their income random day-by-day (with a net average of one dollar a day) to simulate the uncertainty to how much money the average family in the village would have each day. Between this and their constant interaction with local families, they are able to get a full picture of the true hardships of daily life for many people. Personally, they deal with hunger, disease, and no access to medicine. Among their new friends they can see other tough realities such as being unable to pay for food, education, or other basic parts of life that many of us take for granted. The documentary isn’t all sad, however, and the relationships the four boys form — particularly Chino and Rosa — show the perseverance of these villagers.
In the end, the boys briefly reflect on the difficulty of the situation and the disappointing reality that there really are no easy solutions. They conclude that the best way to fix the cycle of poverty that affects far too large of a percentage of the world is for everyone to help out a little bit. This isn’t a one-hour guilt trip, though, and at no point do they ask for donations or even drop a link. They simply present and live the reality then let the viewer decide how exactly they should take action. And that, to me, is the best sales pitch of all.
Check out the rest of our Staff Picks archive here. Want to make a few recommendations of your own? Write for Motion State.
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