2000-poster-virgin_suicides-1The Virgin Suicides (1999)
I volunteered to write this recommendation, then I was like UGH TOO INTIMIDATING, GIVE IT TO SOMEONE ELSE, then Anaheed tried to find someone else, then I was like UGH WHAT ARE YOU DOING, THIS IS MY TURF, so here I am. The Virgin Suicides as a unit—book and movie—has influenced the way I think more than most things in life. I have always been sentimental to a fault, so this story, which is about memories of fantasies, resonates for me as someone who gets nostalgic for EVERYTHING: that water bottle wrapper, my old desktop wallpaper, last Tuesday. I get so nostalgic for The Virgin Suicides‘ nostalgia that I have made it a personal summer tradition to reread and rewatch it every year. I have so taken to its suggestion that fantasizing is better than reality that I’ve grown comfortable with my lifestyle choice of being a hermit who dreams about things. The story is narrated by a pack of neighborhood boys, now all grown up, who crushed in their youth on an elusive and blond pack of neighborhood girls, the Lisbon sisters. Tragedy strikes, and these men have spent their whole lives trying to figure out why. As Roger Ebert wrote about the film, by the end of it you realize it is as much about the boys as it is about the girls—it’s about the combination of adolescence and desire, and how often love is a projection of our own fantasies. Sofia Coppola’s movie is one of the most successful film adaptations of a book ever, IMO, and so perfectly aligns the aforementioned concept with a dreamy aesthetic that is tacky and cheesy but completely sincere in the way a 1970s teen almost-love story should be: There are montages of the girls prancing around with unicorns, yellows and pinks and suburban skies, the sounds of Todd Rundgren and Heart. OMG, both scenes that use Heart are so good, especially the makeout one. I don’t even know how to express all of my love for this movie. Or tell you how many times I have tried to re-create its scenes as a coping mechanism with my own adolescence (healthily, I promise). I have made a zine about it, and written about it here, here, and here. OMGGGGGG. —Tavi

mermaids222Mermaids (1990)
Mermaids is one of my favorite films of forever, and between the ages of 13 and 15 I watched it on a weekly basis. It stars Winona Ryder as Charlotte Flax, who figures the only way to rebel against her single, sex-having, cigarette-smoking, beehived mother (Cher) is by becoming a nun. It’s not easy, though—Charlotte has a hard time reconciling her newfound devotion to God with her first-crush lust for Joe (Jake Ryan!), the caretaker for the convent she hangs out at. Oh, I’m going to hell for sure, Charlotte tells herself in one scene. Here he is talking about his poor dead mother, and I can’t help wishing his hands were unbuttoning my dress. The movie is about the difficulties and joys of mother-daughter relationships and the longing and confusion you feel for your first love. Also, it’s tinted with the soft nostalgia that all movies about the ’60s made in the ’90s seem to have, right down to the dope ’60s-pop soundtrack. —Esme

0e5ef154-833f-467d-9dd8-6640f25afba6Rolling Love (Go! Fried Rice) (2008, CTV/GTV)
Rolling Love, or 翻滾吧!蛋炒飯 (翻滚吧!蛋炒饭), is a Taiwanese telenovela starring the extra-adorable Jiro Wang, actor and main squeeze in Taiwanese boy band Fahrenheit (who provide the theme song). Jiro plays Mi Qi Lin, a cook in a small restaurant in a village where he is renowned for his amazing fried rice, the best in the land (all his other dishes are the worst, unfortunately). His legendary fried rice attracts the attention of Xiao Shu, a beloved pop singer who recently lost her eyesight in a car accident with her betrothed, the four-star master chef Leng Lie—a rigid, serious man, the complete opposite of Mi Qi Lin’s fun-loving, quirky cool-guy steez. Mi Qi Lin falls for Xiao Shu, Xiao Shu falls for his rice, Leng Lie just wants his dad to give him more attention, and Mi Qi Lin’s sidekick, Shan Cheng, just wants to PARTAY all the time! It’s a super-colorful, roiling (or rolling, amirite) quadrangle of the characters’ unrequited emotions that is so fun to watch, and even though it gets a little ridiculous (How did the car accident leave Xiao Shu blind?! Also, kidnapping subplot?!) it’s the best kind of serialized soap opera/dramedy. You can find it with English subtitles all over the internet if you do not speak Mandarin (I do not). —Julianne

brokeback-mountain-poster-artwork-heath-ledger-jake-gyllenhaal-michelle-williams-smallBrokeback Mountain (2005)
Based on the Annie Proulx story of the same name and directed by Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain is about two young cowboys, Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal), who spend a summer herding sheep together in the wilds of Wyoming in 1963. Over the course of the season they fall in love, though they know they must keep their relationship secret because it’s 1963 and they’re gay cowboys in Wyoming. But after their work is done and they go back to their regular, closeted lives, they CAN’T QUIT EACH OTHER and they spend the next few decades secretly meeting up for brief stretches of time, and…well, I don’t want to tell you any more. It’s a beautiful movie, but suuuch a devastating one. Surround yourself with Kleenex; you will surely need it. —Hazel

Safety-Not-Guaranteed-14604745-7Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
If you tell me that Aubrey Plaza is starring in something, I will watch it. I don’t even care if it’s that Microsoft ad. Everything she acts in turns to gold. Safety Not Guaranteed supports this theory. Plaza plays Darius, a college graduate who hates her life because she lives at home and works as an unpaid intern at a magazine. One of the magazine’s writers, Jeff (played by Jake Johnson aka Nick from New Girl!), finds a classified ad by a guy looking for someone to accompany him as he travels back in time (the film was actually inspired by exactly such an ad). Jeff answers the ad under false pretenses, saying he’s interested in being the dude’s time-travel buddy when he actually wants to write about him, and he brings Darius and her nerdy colleague Arnau along to help. Soon Jeff reveals a second ulterior motive, and he and the guy who placed the ad, Kenneth, bond over secret regrets that make them both pine for the past. I love this movie because it so honestly captures how we can let our pasts define us and hold us back, and because it is hilarious. —Gabby

fish-tank-movie-poster-1020553731Fish Tank (2009)
This film is pretty grim, but in an eerie, beautiful way. It’s set in the suburbs of East London, where 15-year old Mia wanders the motorways and empty apartments of her council estate (British for public housing), drinking cider (British for alcohol) alone and getting into fights. Her mom starts dating a charming but creepy Michael Fassbender, who encourages Mia’s dream of being a dancer, until a whole load of boundaries are crossed by everyone and it all gets pretty dark (kidnap, 10-year-olds smoking, and of course the aforementioned charming but creepy Michael Fassbender). It’s about loneliness and wanting to escape, and I like it because it’s lovely to look at: The vast wide shots of Mia’s bleak surroundings give the film a hazy, dreamlike aesthetic, and the scenes of her wasting time on her own remind me of the gloominess of long summer days with nothing to do. —Esme

neverlandposterFinding Neverland (2004)
I was delighted when I found out that they were making a movie about the story behind my favorite childhood tale, Peter Pan—doubly so when I heard Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet were starring as the playwright J.M. Barrie and his friend Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. Barrie’s latest play has bombed when he meets the widowed Sylvia and her four boys. Their relationship is platonic—though there is drama around it—but Barrie becomes a father figure to the boys, and they an inspiration to him. This is a story about the magic of imagination—how it can turn dogs into bears or a sad kid named Peter into the mythical “boy who wouldn’t grow up.” I cry every time I watch this movie—out of joy when the play Peter Pan premieres and out of sadness for the bittersweet real-life (or at least semi-biographical) ending—but I come away happy, reminded that there is magic in the world and as long as we believe in it, we can hold on to the best parts of childhood forever. —Stephanie

5672545_42571_7913932_kinopoisk.ru-10th-Kingdom_2C-The-422383The 10th Kingdom (2000, ABC)
Before Netflix, it was a lot harder to binge on a TV miniseries–you had to watch it live or else wait for the DVDs. This is how I came to own a DVD boxset of The 10th Kingdom, which aired 13 years ago, in two-hour chunks over five nights, on ABC. The basic story is this: A young waitress in New York City (played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley, the bride in Father of the Bride and Peggy on Nashville) crosses through a magical portal in the middle of Central Park and finds herself in a place where evil queens and trolls exist. Like most fairy tales, much of this series can be understood as an allegory about parents and children (I won’t spoil the details for you), but there is also so much bonkers, bonkers stuff in here that came fresh out of someone’s (I guess Simon Moore‘s?) hilarious and bizarre imagination. The trolls, led by Ed O’Neill, are my favorite characters, especially when they come across a boombox that plays a tape of the Bee Gees on repeat. There is a romance, of course, and Scott Cohen, who plays a man who is also a wolf (tell me that’s not sexy), is delicious. Best of all, here we are in 2013, and now the whole thing is streaming on Netflix. What are you waiting for? —Emma S.

bdqDZyCM6EbPq0j5ew0NKYEZhjrFriends With Money (2006)
This movie is all about longing for money, romance, and connection. Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener (who is basically the queen of writing movies about accurate and complex female friendships—e.g., Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing, and Please Give—which is weirdly rare these days in Hollywood), the movie follows four women who are trying to fill various holes in their life. There’s Olivia (Jennifer Aniston), an ex-teacher struggling to make ends meet by working as a maid; Franny (Joan Cusack), a super-rich stay-at-home mom in a seemingly perfect marriage; Christine (Catherine Keener), a screenwriter whose marriage is falling apart; and Jane (Frances McDormand), whose transition into menopause is causing friction between her and her family. Though (because?) all of these women are going through their own unique mini–life crises, each one looks at the others with a mixture of envy and compassion. Written with Holocener’s typical dry wit, Friends With Money is a great, funny movie about realizing that the grass isn’t always greener. —Hazel

2bbcshowsLife on Mars (2006-2007, BBC One)
Ashes to Ashes (2008-2010, BBC One)

I started watching these shows because of their David Bowie–related titles. I had no idea then the effect they would eventually have on me—I quickly became obsessed. Life on Mars is about a policeman named Sam Tyler who gets hit by a car and goes into a coma—at least that’s what he’s up to in 2006. In his mind, or in the past, or somewhere, he wakes up and it’s 1973 and he spends as much time investigating what’s happened to him as he does trying to do old-timey police work. Sam Tyler ties LOM to its sequel, Ashes to Ashes, in which a policewoman called Alex Drake is investigating Tyler’s time-travel claim, when—coincidence of coincidences!—she is shot and wakes up in the 1980s (with a great perm), longing to get back to her life but discovering all kinds of madness from her past trapped in this alternate world. Get ready for heartbreak as Tyler and Drake are separated from their present-day loved ones, fall in love with people in the wrong decades, and struggle to figure out if they have really traveled through time or their minds are playing tricks on them. Both series are brilliant, full of pop culture and good music (lots of Bowie, of course), and their finales will (if you’re like me) have you sobbing for days. P.S. I am talking about the British Life on Mars—America, I am so sorry you were given a slicked-up, unfunny remake. Good thing you can get the UK version on DVD! —Caitlin

before-midnight-posterBefore Midnight (2013)
This is the third film in Richard Linklater’s trilogy chronicling, over decades, the relationship of a French/American couple, and I think it’s the best one of the bunch. When the first installment, Before Sunrise, came out in 1995, it was pretty much every young, overeducated, self-aware person’s dream: Meet a beautiful stranger on a Paris train and spontaneously derail your prior plans in order to spend the evening together, talking and talking and talking about LIFE—but don’t play the fool by pretending it’s a big deal or anything. (If you don’t want to be spoiled on that movie’s ending, or what’s transpired between the three movies, stop reading right now!) The cynical Celine (Julie Delpy) and the slightly less cynical Jesse (Ethan Hawke) part ways in Vienna, planning to meet up again in six months. In Before Sunset (2004) we learn that that meeting never came off, and they both kick themselves for the grand, naïve gesture of not exchanging phone numbers. “I guess when you’re young you believe there will be many people in life with whom you connect,” says Celine. “Later you realize it only happens a few times.” In Before Midnight, Celine and Jesse are a couple who have been together for a decade—the same amount of time they once spent pining for each other. They’re in their 40s now, and have become curious, flawed, opinionated, shrewd, manipulative, wonderful people. I want to know these characters forever (I’ve got a huge soft spot for the feminist Celine), so I hope this isn’t the last Before film. I would prefer that the series goes on and on every decade, like the British Up series, until Delpy and Hawke and Linklater (and I) are gone. —Phoebe

Tiger-Eyes-posterTiger Eyes (2013)
After 32 years, Judy Blume’s heartbreaking YA novel about the loss of a parent is finally getting the silver screen treatment (out June 7), starring Willa “Agnes on Gossip Girl” Holland as the main character, Davey. Normally I get a little nervous when my formative classics are made into modern-world movies, but I feel OK recommending this one to all of us, sight unseen: It’s got the blessing of Ms. Blume herself, not least because it’s directed and screenwritten by her son, Lawrence. Brief recap: after 17-year-old Davey’s father is murdered in a robbery at his 7-Eleven, she and her family move to Los Alamos, New Mexico, in order to regroup. As she goes through a quiet churn of emotions—grief, anger, fear, loss, confusion—she meets a special boy named Wolf who helps transform her, day by day, until she gradually makes a kind of peace with the turn her life has taken. The book is really nuanced, so it will be interesting to see how the emotions translate, but again, with Judy Blume’s endorsement, I’m all in. —Julianne ♦