Hard to Be a God (2013)

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As with so many of my picks, this relatively recent Russian film made to the top of many lists of most remarkable works and it’s even considered to be science-fiction. I did note that whenever it’s mentioned critics always took care to state that it’s an incredibly dense and almost incomprehensible film that runs to more than three hours long. Even my cinephile friend said that he loved the cinematography but had a hard time finishing it. Considering the kind of films that he liked, this is a seriously intimidating statement.

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Her Story

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I’m actually mostly playing Kerbal Space Program at the moment but that’s such a complex and time consuming game that I felt like mixing it up with something lighter. I got this as part of the Humble Narrative bundle recently, though I only very rarely buy those. This game got some good mentions on Broken Forum when it came out and I know that it’s very short so it seems like a great fit.

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12 Angry Men (1957)

Courtroom dramas seem to be a dead genre these days, especially in the United States. My guess is that the really interesting and precedent-setting cases are just too complex to be put on film while simpler cases about street crime has to contend with the cynicism of modern audiences that the justice system actually works. In any case, 12 Angry Men is widely considered one of the best exemplars of this genre and so it was put on my list.

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Tangerine (2015)

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Sometimes it’s easy to overlook just how fast social change in the United States can be. For me it was astonishing to see not just how quickly transgender rights entered the mainstream but how all kinds of new words entered the vocabulary of everyday use. Even as a very liberal person I have to admit to finding all that change off-putting as society now has to come up with all sorts new rules to govern all manner of interactions. Tangerine is far from being the first film with transgender leads but as far as I know it is the first American film in which its producer campaigned for its performers to be nominated for the Best Actress category for the Academy Awards. Even if this bid ultimately failed, it seems that this will only be a matter of time.

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Yellow Earth (1984)

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Despite having already watched this multiple times while studying in China my wife asked to watch it again after having gained more experience of cinema from all around the world. I suppose that as one of the most important films of China it’s about time that I watched it as well. It was the directorial debut of Chen Kaige and it was photographed by Zhang Yimou, arguably the two doyens of Chinese cinema.

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The Three-Body Problem

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My wife had been bugging me for ages to read this book, arguably China’s best known science-fiction work for the moment. Written by Liu Cixin, it was first serialized in a magazine some years back. Of course I had to first wait for it to be translated to English and for it to be released at affordable paperback prices. In the meantime, the book went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel last year, though it was amidst the chaos created by the Raid Puppies and the Sad Puppies. The version that I eventually got was on Google Play Books. Note that this write-up will be full of spoilers as it will difficult to say much about it otherwise.

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Princess (2006)

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This one was a recommendation from our cinephile while we were in the middle of talking about unusual animated films and it’s obscure enough that I doubt that I would have heard of it in any other way. It’s a Danish film made by director Anders Morgenthaler who apparently made his reputation from a newspaper-published comic strip. It’s also very much an adult film as it has explicit sex scenes and very unusually includes a significant amount of real-life footage.

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The unexamined life is a life not worth living