It’s weird to think that very shortly, 2021 will be coming to a close. With that being said, Hollywood is releasing what seem to be a couple of hopeful major award-grabbing movies. Here’s what films to look forward to for the rest of the year, which you can watch over winter break in preparation for awards season:
Based off of a novel written in 1965 by Frank Herbert, this narrative brings together all of the elements of film that we love to see on the big screen: a star-studded ensemble cast (Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, and Oscar Isaac), innovative costume design, a hard-hitting soundtrack (composed by Hans Zimmer), and intricate visual design that is attributed to director Denis Villeneuve. I would recommend this movie with a warning: it’s definitely not for everyone. Not much background is explained in the film, so if you haven’t previously watched David Lynch’s adaptation of the book or read the novel itself, you may have a more difficult time understanding the plot. With minimal dialogue and more focus on the sound/visual elements, it might feel slow to some.
The movie industry’s biggest franchise is finally gracing us with another highly-anticipated film with Marvel movie Eternals. Similar to Dune, the ensemble cast is filled with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Including Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, and Gemma Chan, and directed by recent Academy Award winner Chloe Zhao, this film is said to be different from anything that Marvel has ever released before. If you like larger-than-life stories, then this is the perfect fit for you.
If you’re a fan of Netflix’s The Crown, then this movie is the perfect match for you. With Kristen Stewart in the titular role, this story named after Princess Diana’s maiden name unpacks the Christmas festivities at Queen Elizabeth II’s Sandringham Estate leading up to the divorce between Diana and Prince Charles. Directed by Pablo Larraín, who also made Jackie, this film is predicted to make Stewart a potential Oscar candidate from the looks of the trailer itself. If you’re a history buff or simply want to know more about the beloved Princess Di, then Spencer is the movie to watch.
Over the past year, I’ve spent almost all of my time at home (as most people have), doing my part to flatten the curve and stop the spread of Covid-19 by doing absolutely nothing. Well, not exactly nothing, as I’ve filled the time with a number of TV shows and films I’d been meaning to watch but had previously not had time for. The pandemic certainly freed some time up for me to catch up on these shows. Watching a show or movie can be more than just mindless entertainment; it can be an informative or even educational experience, especially if you watch the right things. By watching American classics and international standouts, I believe my quarantine binge-watching habits have been more productive than one might expect.
With travel being impossible, I’ve scratched the itch to go abroad by watching shows and movies that take place in Mexico and Italy. I speak Spanish, but I know that in order to maintain fluency in a language, practice is essential. As such, I began watching Netflix’s Club de Cuervos, a show about a soccer team in a small town outside of Mexico City. It was not only highly entertaining (I enjoyed it so much I watched the spinoff series it produced), but it also helped me maintain my ear for the language. The show even improved my understanding of the Central Mexican dialect and a variety of accents which are quite prevalent in Los Angeles.
I’ve also been learning Italian at USC for the past couple of years, and by watching a number of classic Italian films on Kanopy, a streaming service for classic and indie films (which all USC students have access to), I’ve bettered my understanding of the language while watching some of the most artistic films ever made. Here’s a tip: if you’re watching a show in a foreign language you’re trying to learn, turn on the subtitles in the foreign language. For me, Spanish and Italian are much easier to understand when I have subtitles on and can read along. If you’re working on your English, try using English subtitles and the dialogue should be easier to understand.
Travel needn’t take place abroad as traveling through time may arguably be even more exciting. I was quite young when AMC’s Mad Men and HBO’s The Wire first began airing, and having heard nothing but good things about the shows, I’ve always wanted to watch them. Quarantine provided the time for that. Mad Men is set in 1960s Manhattan. The title is derived from the show’s main focus, which is the advertising industry along Madison Avenue. It’s an excellent period piece, and I enjoyed all seven seasons. It helped pass the time in the early days of lockdown. It also provides fascinating insight into 1960s America and the professional and business world. The show includes important examinations of misogyny and sexism through the story arc of Peggy Olson, one of the main characters and a fan favorite, as well as the social and racial justice movements of the 1960s. It also provides revealing vignettes of American culture. It’s not only an excellent show, with great shots and suave styles, but an interesting look into American history.
The Wire, a Baltimore-based crime drama, is also quite insightful. I just wrapped up the first season and it very deftly handles controversial subjects such as the criminal justice system, drug trade, racial tensions, and corruption. It shows the perspectives of all parties involved, giving the audience the space to receive the information and interpret it on their own. It also has some of the best scene transitions I’ve ever seen, and I eagerly look forward to watching the remaining four seasons. While the show was made in the early and mid-2000s, the topics it covers are still wholly relevant today.
These shows are worth watching, especially if you are an international student that wants to gain a better understanding of American culture, language, and history, just as I learned by watching shows from Mexico and Italy. These shows also help pass the time, because even though schoolwork is a large load on all of our plates, there still isn’t much to do besides staying home, staying safe, and watching shows.
Connor is a junior majoring in History and Italian at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Born and raised in California, in Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area, he has long been interested in experiencing diverse cultures and learning new languages. He is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Italian, drawn to both by his love of history and cuisine. He enjoys adventuring in both the urban and natural landscapes of California, as well as playing and listening to music, and is always happy to recommend the best taco spot to eat at, beach to walk along, or album to listen to. He is a huge sports fan and loves to chat about everything from the Lakers to soccer.
It has been 15 years since the first episode of Supernatural aired on The CW. Now the series has come to its final season and the finale aired on Nov. 19, 2020. I became a part of the Supernatural family in 2015 when I watched ten seasons in order to catch up to the current episodes. The story itself is about hunting supernatural monsters, ghosts, and demons that come from folklore and myths. While watching, however, I realized that Supernatural is also a show about family, friendship, sacrifice, and humanity. Though the plot may not always make sense, the show has created many multidimensional characters that the audience loves.
The main characters are Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester, and Castiel. Dean and Sam are brothers, and Castiel (Cas) is an angel. They go on adventures across the country saving people from supernatural monsters. What fascinated me most is the way they treated each other and how they showed their humanity despite significant challenges. At first, Sam and Dean were the only consistent characters in the show, but others soon joined the main storyline. Castiel became one of the most significant characters as he slowly became closer to Sam and Dean, who warmly welcomed him into their family. In their dysfunctional family, they were always willing to sacrifice everything for each other. As Sam said to Dean, “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.” I think one must be incredibly lucky to have someone who loves you that much and to know that there are always people you can rely on.
Another interesting aspect of the show is watching the characters travel across the United States, living in motels, eating fast food, and passing through pretty much every state in the US. As an international student, I found it to be one of the best sources to learn about American culture and life, and I’d like to travel to many of the places I have seen them travel to on the show. Since Supernatural’s theme is about hunting monsters in America, many urban legends and different forms of folklore were introduced to me through the show, such as Bloody Mary, the Wendigo, the myth of the Hook Man, and more. The Bible also plays a role in the different legends discussed in the show. I learned many pop culture references based on these intriguing stories, which made it easier to communicate with native English speakers because I had more topics to explore and slang to use. One of the main characters, Dean, uses a lot of hilarious slang terms that are part of authentic American English, and these can be used in daily life by international students looking to blend more casual terms into their speaking.