In most Hollywood movies, the protagonist undergoes some sort of major life change. In his classic text, Story, Robert McKee argues that in order for a movie to be satisfying to an audience, there must be irreversible change by the movie’s end. So of course, there are a ton of movies about personal reinvention. Here are five to watch when you feel like you’re stuck in a rut.

5. Julie and Julia (2009)

Amy Adams’ Julie shows us the power of following your own curiosity by starting small and staying consistent. Maybe your own little project will lead to something greater. Maybe it won’t, but…

Just as it’s easy to get sick of Christmas music on the radio, one can tire of the same old Christmas movies beamed out by cable television year after year. Here are five movies set at Christmastime, each giving off decidedly un-Chrsitmassy vibes.

5. Batman Returns (1992)

Tim Burton and Michael Keaton follow up the mega-blockbuster Batman with a weirder, moodier sequel that feels nothing like a modern-day superhero movie. Gotham City has never looked better than it does here at Christmas: a dark and dreamy Art Deco megalopolis blanketed in snow.

Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy

As I sit down to write this, it’s been exactly 30 years since Dick Tracy was released in theaters. June 15 Everywhere. 30 years. A “nice round number” to quote Dr. Emmett Brown. I can think of no better time to begin this look back at one of the defining movies of my childhood.

Joe Versus The Volcano

1990 was a magical year for me. I was eight years old when it began, nine when it ended. Kind of sad to think your golden age occurred when you were that young, that your life peaked during prepubescence. But that’s not what I’m saying exactly. The most important moments of my life came much later, as did whatever small achievements I’ve had. But 1990 was a golden age simply because I didn’t need to achieve anything. My only responsibility was school, and I was lucky enough to be a good student. Aside from that, my time was my own…

5. Rope (1948)

Maybe the only thing stopping Alfred Hitchcock from making this movie all in one take was the tiny detail that film-reel length made it technically impossible. Instead he uses 10 carefully timed, barely visible edits to make this murder story play out in real-time over the course of 80 minutes, and all in a single room. Adapted from the 1929 play of the same name, Rope generated some controversy due to its connection to the real-life Leopold and Loeb murder case and its supposed homosexual subtext. Viewed now, it’s a masterful study in cinematic minimalism.

5. Stillwater

The “hard-working band makes good” at the center of Almost Famous (2000), Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical ode to the ’70s rock scene he grew up in as a teen journalist. You’ll remember the band more for their bickering and offstage antics (“I AM A GOLDEN GOD!”) than their music, but the performance scenes really deliver the transcendent energy of a live rock show.

Song Highlight: “Fever Dog”

4. The Commitments

The “Oh-need-ers.”

It’s been written before, and I’ll write it again here. When you watch Tom Hanks’ 1996 directorial debut That Thing You Do!, you hear the same song over and over again, and somehow you never get sick of it. It’s been over 20 years, and I’m still not sick of it! “That Thing You Do!” is not only one of the all-time great movie songs, it’s one of the all-time great pop songs, period. Full stop. …

5. The Hateful Eight

Tarantino’s latest opus opens with some dazzling shots of snow-covered landscapes, but doesn’t spend too much time outdoors before confining the rest of the action to just one room. This murder mystery is probably Tarantino’s talkiest picture to date, but he leaves room (of course) for a few well-timed eruptions of violence.

4. Beautiful Girls

5. Loving You

The young king rises in this semi-autobiographical star vehicle from 1957, Elvis’ second screen appearance and first leading role (he had a supporting role in his screen debut, Love Me Tender). Slowly paced at times, but the dreamy Technicolor, the 1950s innocence, and the fun musical sequences will win you over.

Song Highlights: “Got a Lot o’ Livin’ to Do!,” “Teddy Bear,” “Loving You”

4. Blue Hawaii

5. Sing Street

John Carney’s (Once, Begin Again) third music-focused feature perfectly captures the teenage exuberance of first loves, both romantic and musical. Like La La Land, Sing Street will resonate with anyone who’s ever sung, dreamed, or loved.

Joseph A.

Film enthusiast. Graphic designer. Occasional musician.

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