10 films to watch this winter - Selected by Nick Hartman, UICA's Film Coordinator

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There’s something comforting but depressing about the winter months in a cold climate. The days are bleak and cold, but it’s a time where you can lock yourself inside, snuggle up in your blanket, and spend hours sitting in front of the TV without feeling guilty. I mean, what else is there to really do when it’s below zero? Go skiing, snowmobiling, take a hike? Nah, too cold. If you’re like me and enjoy sitting in a dark room, with snacks and your favorite hot drink, then here’s a list of my top 10 recommended films to watch during the winter months.

UICA’s Film Coordinator, Nick Hartman, lists some of his favorite films to watch this winter.


1) My Winnipeg (2007)
Directed by: Guy Maddin
Genre: Drama/Experimental
Origin: Canada
Rating: Not Rated

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Director Guy Maddin is far too overlooked, and if you’re not familiar with his work, then I’m glad I can be the one to open your eyes to such a talented filmmaker. My Winnipeg is a gem that captures the look of the 1950’s even though it was made in 2007. Its unique use of black and white photography and genre-blending gives it an old cinematic feel, but I can assure you it’s a contemporary masterpiece that will go down as a classic.

Synopsis
Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin conducts a personal tour of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the town where he grew up and still lives, in a film he calls a "docu-fantasia." By combining archival footage and interviews, dreamlike camera work and recreated scenes -- including several with actress Ann Savage playing the part of Maddin's mother -- the filmmaker builds a portrait of Winnipeg that manages to be historical, intimate, surreal, entertaining and entirely his own.
 


2) Until the Light Takes Us (2008)
Directed by: Audrey Ewell
Genre: Documentary
Origin: USA | Norway
Rating: R

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Everyone’s heard of Biggie and Tupac, but many haven’t heard of Euronymous and Varg, who are considered to be the Biggie and Tupac of metal music. In the frostbitten land of Norway, an underground metal scene known as “Norwegian Black Metal” was created by Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth. This dark heavy metal scene sparked a series of church burnings, gruesome murders, and ultimately the demise of Euronymous – the man who started it all.

Synopsis
This documentary takes a behind-the-scenes look at the controversial Norwegian black metal scene of the 1990s, an idealistic and innovative musical movement marred by jealous infighting and an unfortunate campaign of public violence. Drummer Leif Gylve "Fenriz" Nagell of Darkthrone and Varg Vikernes of Mayhem -- an innovative but troubled musician who spent over a decade behind bars for the murder of black-metal guitarist Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth -- tell their stories.


3) Winter Light (1963)
Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Genre: Drama
Origin: Sweden
Rating: R

Winter Light

There’s already something so gloomy about Bergman’s films, whether it’s the look of the cold waves of the sea crashing upon the shore, or the way his stories explore the dark side of human emotion that a lot of directors don’t know how to tap into. However, his film Winter Light may be his bleakest film, not just because of the title, and its aesthetic choices; but because of the narrative that explores loss, heartbreak, and religious doubt.               

Synopsis
A Swedish pastor fails a loving woman, a suicidal fisherman, and God.


4) Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Genre: Drama | Fantasy | Romance
Origin: USA
Rated: PG-13

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I sometimes find myself confused and not sure if I should watch Edward Scissorhands in the summer, the fall, or closer to the holidays. Honestly, that’s what makes this film so special. Edward is a character you’d see straight out of a horror film, but the setting he’s placed in, such as the brightly colored suburban neighborhood or a dark wintery night makes this film watchable any season. I however, prefer to watch in the winter due to Kim’s iconic snow dance scene.

Synopsis
A scientist builds an animated human being -- the gentle Edward. The scientist dies before he can finish assembling Edward, though, leaving the young man with a freakish appearance accentuated by the scissor blades he has instead of hands. Loving suburban saleswoman Peg discovers Edward and takes him home, where he falls for Peg's teen daughter. However, despite his kindness and artistic talent, Edward's hands make him an outcast.


5) Ida (2013)
Directed by: Pawel Pawlikowski
Genre: Drama
Origin: Poland | Denmark | France | UK
Rated: PG-13

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I can’t conduct a list of movies to watch without including one that’s played here at the UICA. If you attended the screening of Ida, then you can skip to number 6 because you already know how great this film is and don’t need me to tell you why. If you haven’t seen it, then I highly encourage you to do so. A film written with empathy, great acting, and carefully framed black and white photography that really captures some of Poland’s dark history but also their cold winter landscapes.

Synopsis
In 1962, Anna is about to take vows as a nun when she learns from her only relative that she is Jewish. Both women embark on a journey to discover their family story and where they belong.


6)  Misery (1990)
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Genre: Horror | Crime
Origin: USA
Rated: R

Misery

Next time a blizzard roles in, I recommend putting on this film.  One of the worst feelings one can experience is being isolated, locked in, and being held against your will. Misery is a film that explores those themes, and if you screen during a blizzard knowing you can’t leave it will only intensify your viewing experience.

Synopsis
After a serious car crash, novelist Paul Sheldon is rescued by former nurse Annie Wilkes, who claims to be his biggest fan. Annie brings him to her remote cabin to recover, where her obsession takes a dark turn when she discovers Sheldon is killing off her favorite character from his novels. As Sheldon devises plans for escape, Annie grows increasingly controlling, even violent, as she forces the author to shape his writing to suit her twisted fantasies.


Snow Angels

7) Snow Angels (2007)
Directed by: David Gordon-Green
Genre: Drama
Origin: USA
Rated: R

Before director David Gordon-Green got noticed for his mind numbing stoner films such as Pineapple Express (2008) and Your Highness (2011) he actually wrote and directed some amazing films, and Snow Angels is one of them.

I’ve always been a sucker for films that are set in a small town. Maybe it’s because I come from one, or maybe because these films have really interesting and relatable characters. Snow Angels really dives into human relationships in small towns and how paths are easily crossed. When these paths are crossed and secrets are revealed, human emotions become cold and dark, and that provides you with a perfect winter film.

Synopsis
Waitress Annie has separated from her suicidal alcoholic husband, Glenn. Glenn has become an evangelical Christian, but his erratic attempts at getting back into Annie's life have alarmed her. High school student Arthur works at Annie's restaurant, growing closer to a new kid in town, Lila, after class. When Glenn and Annie's daughter go missing, the whole town searches for her, as he increasingly spirals out of control.


8) Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter (2014)
Directed by: David Zellner
Genre: Drama | Fantasy
Origin: USA
Rated: Not Rated

Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter

If you look up any list of “films to watch in the winter” more than half of them will list the film Fargo (1996). Now of course, I can see why, but I wouldn’t be doing my civic duty as UICA’s Film Coordinator if I didn’t enlighten you about Kumiko due to the connections it makes and has with Fargo. I can’t encourage you enough to see this movie if you’re a Fargo fan.

Synopsis
Kumiko, a Japanese woman who suffers from a mental illness is obsessed with the 1996 film Fargo, specifically the scene where Carl Showaltter buries the briefcase of money by the fence. Kumiko ultimately believes that Fargo isn’t a work of fiction but a true story and believes that the briefcase is still buried there. Kumiko makes it her mission to fly from Japan to the United States to obtain her treasure.


9) Let the Right One In (2008)
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Genre: Drama | Romance | Horror
Origin: Sweden  
Rated: R

Let the right one in

I’ve seen a lot of vampire films and I can honestly say ‘Let the Right One In’ is a vampire film like no other, and stands far apart from the rest. The film puts a whole new spin on the genre and delivers one of the most romantic, atmospheric, and horrifying films released in the past 20 years.

Synopsis
When Oskar, a sensitive, bullied 12-year-old boy living with his mother in suburban Sweden, meets his new neighbor, the mysterious and moody Eli, they strike up a friendship. Initially reserved with each other, Oskar and Eli slowly form a close bond, but it soon becomes apparent that she is no ordinary young girl. Eventually, Eli shares her dark, macabre secret with Oskar, revealing her connection to a string of bloody local murders.


10)  Gold Rush (1925)
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Genre: Comedy
Origin: USA
Rated: Not Rated

Gold Rush

A classic silent comedy staring The Little Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) that will be sure to put a smile on your face during a cold winter’s night. The film itself feels cold considering the entire film takes place in the winter, but I assure you Chaplin’s iconic dinner roll dance scene will warm your heart.

Synopsis
Trapped in a small cabin by a blizzard, the Tramp is forced to share close quarters with a successful prospector and a fugitive. Eventually able to leave the cabin, he falls for a lovely barmaid, trying valiantly to win her affections. When the prospector needs help locating his claim, it appears the Tramp's fortunes may change.


Now do yourself a favor - get warm and cozy, make yourself your favorite drink and plan to spend hours in front of your television watching these wintery cinematic masterpieces.