Leave Me Alone!

Constantly wrapped up in an almost suffocating desire to remain connected to the people around us, we tend to fall into the sometimes exhausting chores of incessant socialization. It’s no doubt that taking time off and postponing plans have become a guilty pleasure nowadays, due to an apparent lack of "me time." Sure, hanging out with friends and family can offer a great sense of joy and satisfaction—but there’s a certain bliss provided by solitude. We tend to value our privacy quite highly these days, not just in terms of personal safety but also for fear of being judged by the world around us. As I sit alone in my room, bitterly scrolling through an Instagram feed saturated with photos of overly happy acquaintances clinking glasses and smiling uncomfortably wide smiles, I remember that in this moment, I have something they don’t: sweet, sweet solitude!

You see, my friends, I can tear off those too-tight pants, throw on a stupidly large pair of sunglasses, and blast my favorite tunes as I perform a full-blown concert to my nonexistent audience of adoring fans. I can choreograph an intricate contemporary, jazz-infused ballet routine to the musical masterpiece that is Britney Spear’s "Toxic." I can loudly and passionately engage in a heated debate with myself over gluten and whether it really is the enemy of all mankind. I can look confidently into the invisible cameras as I narrate (with excruciating detail) all two of the steps involved in making an artisanal, organic grilled-cheese sandwich on my very own cooking show. Heck, I can even brave the closets and attempt to wear all my clothing at once. Why? Because I can! Being alone allows us to finally become the supernovas we truly are without the burdens of societal pressures. So take a break from the rest of world, and every once in a while, don’t be afraid to say those three liberating words sung by the King of Pop himself: leave me alone!

By Gayatri Chaturvedi


Marbling was originally inspired by the space used as a backdrop. The warehouse is owned by one of my close friends who is an artist and uses it as a workspace and gallery. Upon viewing the space for the first time, just on a visit to meet with him about another topic, he got into explaining to me how important it is to have the warehouse as his private hideaway to create and be with his work. This conversation and the general aesthetic of the space inspired me to create a concept-based series on an artistic figure who felt at one with her space.

Photos and Styling by Ariana Velazquez
Assistant Art Direction by Christopher Velazquez
Modeled by Veronica Naumkina
Makeup and Hair by Andi Ojeda

Intimate Spaces

For this series, I asked some friends to pose for me inside their rooms while sitting on their bed, as I consider this to be one of the most intimate and private places in a house. 

Intimate spaces are places inhabited without concealment, where social codes are disregarded and the most personal routines are carried out. What could be more intimate than where we can just be? What could be more personal than where we rest, sleep, love, and dream? For me, being an intruder in an intimate space means being an intruder in the inner world of its inhabitant.

Giovanna León is a 23-year-old student and photographer from Venezuela based in Switzerland.

20 Women-Directed Films to Watch for Awards Season

Photo from Shirkers (2018, dir. Sandi Tan)

Twitter had a field day when Natalie Portman introduced last year’s all-male Golden Globe Best Director nominees as just that—all-male nominees. This sparked a conversation among critics and audiences alike regarding the presence of female filmmakers in awards seasons. Lady Bird was definitely a favorite among critic circles last year, but Greta Gerwig was only the fifth woman to ever be nominated for a Best Director Oscar in the 90 years of the Academy’s history. 

While progress remains elusive (the Golden Globes still had all-male Best Director nominees for next year’s ceremony), other award shows are stepping up their game. Recently, the Independent Spirit Awards—which awards the highest honors in indie filmmaking—nominated more women than men. Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here), Tamara Jenkins (Private Life), and Debra Granik (Leave No Trace) were all nominated together with Paul Schrader (First Reformed) and Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk).

With the year almost coming to a close and awards season nearing its peak, it’s time to catch up on 20 of the women-directed films that made waves in this year’s film festivals. 

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (dir. Marielle Heller)

The Diary of a Teenage Girl director Marielle Heller’s second project is a metabiography of celebrity biographer Lee Israel (played by an almost unrecognizable Melissa McCarthy), who, in fear of becoming obsolete, resorts to deception. The trailer is blunt and electric, and critics have been commending Heller’s and screenwriter Nicole Holofcener’s sensitive approach to an ultimately myopic and unlikeable protagonist. The director’s distinct brand of happy-sad is both hard-hitting and heartfelt, and seeing how much I adored her first film, I am beyond excited for this one. 

Digital release is estimated for January 2019.

Fast Color (dir. Julia Hart)

Black Mirror: San Junipero star Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars in Miss Stevens director’s sci-fi thriller as a woman with superhuman abilities who is forced to go on the run. Hart’s aim was to tell a story about the empowerment of women of color; the president of Codeblack Films, which has acquired the film for distribution, calls it a “powerful and original superhero movie.” With the oversaturation of the superhero genre, a woman-led, small-scale character study is definitely a refreshing take. Needless to say, my attention has been caught.

Release date: March 29

High Life (dir. Claire Denis)

Queen of cinema herself Claire Denis is back with another provocative effort, and it’s been the subject of conversations ever since its festival debut. Undeniably visionary, the French auteur resuscitates a tired sci-fi trope with a film you have to see to believe. The premise alone warrants a watch—a group of incarcerated criminals are deceived into believing they will be set free if they participate in a space mission toward a black hole while being sexually experimented on by the scientists on board—and the trailer is bold and breathtaking. Robert Pattinson paints a devastating portrait with very few words, and Denis accomplishes tension through silence. 

Release date: April 12

I Think We’re Alone Now (dir. Reed Morano)

Morano’s take on the classic two-sentence horror story, “The last man on Earth sits in a room. There was a knock on the door,” is this quiet post-apocalyptic drama starring Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning. An intimate and reflective character study guided by an unconditional lens and bolstered by solid performances, it won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Excellence in Filmmaking at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. 

Currently available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.

Leave No Trace (dir. Debra Granik)

A father-daughter relationship is tested in Granik’s Leave No Trace, in which the pair’s odd but perfect residence in a nature reserve is rattled by being “rescued” by authorities. The two’s dynamic is harrowing and hard-hitting, and the rawness of their performances meshes well with the lush Oregon setting. Thought-provoking and even liberating, to an extent. 

Currently available on DVD and digital.

Let the Corpses Tan (dir. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani)

A fierce post-heist story of a gang of thieves and the chaos of their chosen hideout, this 90-minute crime thriller reinvents the spaghetti western without losing the classic familiarity of a sandy desert shootout. Stylistic, and basically commands you to pay attention to it. The exhilaration is so palpable, you could almost touch it.

Currently available on digital.

The Long Dumb Road (dir. Hannah Fidell)

An incredibly fun and heartfelt road trip comedy about two polar opposites—a sheltered art student (Tony Revolori) and an unpredictable, big-hearted mechanic (Jason Mantzoukas)—who somehow find their way to each other. The two protagonists’ idiosyncrasies are not always in sync, but even so you can’t help but root for them. Revolori contrasts Mantzoukas’ energy perfectly, and their dynamism keeps an otherwise bleak premise alive. 

Currently available on DVD and digital.

Madeline’s Madeline (dir. Josephine Decker)

Stellar newcomer Helena Howard stars as Madeline in this cinematic fever dream that offers a unique voice on the continual exploration of an artist’s excruciating, extremely intimate relationship with the art they make. The line between reality and fantasy is not so much blurred as it is completely annihilated; this film is bold and unafraid to displease the audience. 

Currently available on DVD and digital.

Mary Queen of Scots (dir. Josie Rourke)

Two of last year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Actress teamed up in this historical drama about Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan), who attempts to overthrow her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). A visual feast, from the cinematography to the costume design, and our two heroines command the screen every chance they get.

Release date: December 21

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (dir. Desiree Akhavan)

The classic charm of coming-of-age meets the inescapable intolerance underlining the LGBTQ+ youth experience in this adaptation of the novel of the same name. Set in a gay conversion camp in the early ‘90s, the humor of Cameron Post is deadpan and its drama is biting—it never loses sight of its significance but also simultaneously keeps the angst and whimsy of teenhood. Chloë Grace Moretz and Sasha Lane are poignant and mesmerizing, and Forrest Goodluck is a scene stealer.

Currently available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.

Never Goin' Back (dir. Augustine Frizzell)

Augustine Frizzell’s love letter to female friendships is this road-trip comedy starring the magnetic Maia Mitchell and Camila Morrone as two girls who just want to go to the beach. Hilarious, and beautifully, carefully photographed. It allows the protagonists to be crude, the humor is raunchy, and the plot is fun—definitely a summer movie that didn’t get the attention it deserved. A Letterboxd review said the two main characters are the teenage versions of The Florida Project’s Moonee and Jancey, and honestly, that is more than enough of a reason to see this.

Currently available on digital.

Private Life (dir. Tamara Jenkins)

The classic comfort and wit of New York films are repackaged in this nuanced drama about a couple trying to combat impending infertility through assisted reproduction and domestic adoption. Shares the same vein as a Noah Baumbach film or a Diablo Cody screenplay, but compelling and genuine in its own way. Its warm soulfulness took a lot of viewers by surprise.

Currently streaming on Netflix.

Revenge (dir. Coralie Fargeat)

Rape revenge films are nothing new, but today’s social climate warrants a more brutal take on the subgenre. Revenge is exactly that—blood-soaked, unforgiving, and looks the audience in the eye and asks, “Why do women always have to put up a fight?” Newcomer Fargeat is seething with anger for the male gaze, and she’s unafraid to battle it head-to-head.

Currently available on DVD and digital.

The Rider (dir. Chloé Zhao)

An exploration of identity and self-worth guised as a cowboy movie is what awaits you in The Rider. Zhao met Brady Jandreau, the lead of this film, while shooting her debut feature Songs My Brothers Taught Me. When a horse crushed Jandreau’s skull and diminished his days as a rising rodeo star, Zhao decided to tell his story in this melancholic reflection that critics and audiences alike have deemed beautiful.

Currently available on DVD and digital.

Shirkers (dir. Sandi Tan)

Shirkers is film critic and now filmmaker Sandi Tan’s debut feature about her debut feature. As a teenager, she shot a 16mm road movie with a couple of friends and her very mysterious,` middle-aged American mentor, who later vanishes with all their footage. When the film is recovered two decades later, Tan recounts the production and retraces her mentor’s steps before his disappearance. There is a portion of the documentary in which scenes from their movie, shot in 1992, are juxtaposed with scenes of Western movies released years later: a shot of Tan, who plays the protagonist, looking through an aquarium cuts to an aesthetically similar scene in 1998’s Rushmore; a shot of her walking through the streets of Singapore cuts to a similar scene in 2001’s Ghost World. It made me cry. I couldn’t help but wonder how different the film industry would be if an Asian teenager’s undeniably innovative film didn’t go missing, and I got so angry about living in a world where Shirkers never found its way to cinemas. It made me realize that as a young Asian female creative, I would rather drop dead than let an older man touch my work. When you’re a teenager creating, it’s inevitable that who you are bleeds into the art you make—the work of young people very often is intimate and personal, and having an older man—your literal antithesis—get all up in your creative space—your safe space—is purely devastating. While I mourn for never seeing Shirkers the movie, I’m grateful for the existence of Shirkers the documentary, a personal reflection on art, our relationship to it, and the importance of paying attention to the teenage lens. 

Currently streaming on Netflix.

Skate Kitchen (dir. Crystal Moselle)

This festival favorite, starring a charismatic group of girl skateboarders collectively called Skate Kitchen, is an ode to the New York skating subculture and the transcendental unconditionality of female companionship. The palpability of the cast’s chemistry is the rare kind you only see between real-life friends, and Moselle’s loving eye makes us fall in love with the domestic magic of these girls’s everyday lives. This could have a ten-hour runtime and I would still watch it in its entirety. Energetic, unforgettable, and easily one of my favorites of the year.

Currently available on DVD and digital.

The Tale (dir. Jennifer Fox)

A watch that I personally have been putting off because it hits too close to home. Laura Dern plays Jennifer Fox, who is forced to re-examine her first sexual relationship in this powerful, unflinching true story. It will inevitably reopen old wounds I’ve been trying to hide away, but once I muster up the courage to finally watch it, I have no doubt it will heal me in a way that I have never been absolved before.

Currently available on DVD and digital.

Vita and Virginia (dir. Chanya Button)

A haunting biographical romance drama about the love affair between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. Beautifully structured, daringly shot, and Elizabeth Debicki stuns as the enigmatic Woolf. 

Release date TBD.

You Were Never Really Here (dir. Lynne Ramsay)

Ramsay is the master of pre-packaged anxiety and cinematic dread, and her quietly terrifying storytelling is ever present in her latest effort. Joaquin Phoenix, playing a traumatized veteran who tracks down missing girls for a living, delivers a haunting and implosive performance. A conspiracy is unraveled through the course of the film, and the fact that it was approached with such intimacy amplifies its horror. Ramsay understands that fear is most effective when personal, and by her fourth feature, she’s already mastered how to harness it.

Currently available on Blu-ray and Digital.

Zama (dir. Lucreca Martel)

Based on the novel of the same name by Antonio Di Benedetto, this film follows Spanish officer Diego de Zama as he awaits his transfer from Asunción to Buenos Aires. A fearless satire on themes of colonialism that is equally slow-burn and riveting. 

Currently available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.

By Andrea Panaligan

Moon River

Two powerful, goddess-like figures protect the river they named after the moon. They weave in and out of time and reality, projecting images of togetherness—taking up space but also expanding it. They aren’t entities you can touch but they can feel anything they want to. During the day they wait patiently for visitors. They read, wander, lay around, and adorn their river. 

I wrote this a while ago while, inspired by my dreams. Thus, I decided to make a mood board for a series based off of it. I wanted the camera angles to be a little intrusive, like the viewer is getting the chance to look at something intimately—like the viewer us seeing some sort of magic they’re not supposed to. I liked getting low on the ground with my camera so the models had more dominant positioning. It really makes the models look bigger and less human, allowing the viewer to feel smaller. 

Photos by Patrick Thompson
Modeled by Alaysha Sisson and Jannai Simmons

Christmas Movie Round-Up: The Top 5 Yuletide Tales

Everyone has a different opinion on not only what their favorite Christmas movie is, but also what makes a movie a Christmas movie. Some people refer to the “classics” like A Christmas Story (1983) and March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934), while others like to think more outside of the box with movies like Die Hard (1988). In this Christmas movie round-up, we’re going to talk specifically about the movies that embody the “true meaning” of Christmas—and teach us what the holiday spirit is all about. 

5. Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Photo credit: The Geek Wave

In this Japanese anime, we meet three unlikely heroes on Christmas Eve. Through a nativity-esque scenario, they teach us the meaning of Christmas through kindness, charity, and pure luck. The main characters, Gin, Hana, and Miyuki, are homeless and  stumble upon a newborn while sifting through the trash. Incredibly heartwarming and wildly unconventional, this movie teaches us about what makes Christmas so magical, even when there is no magic involved. Directed by the late Anime veteran Satoshi Kon and written by Keiko Nobumoto (Cowboy Bepop and Wolf’s Rain), Tokyo Godfathers is full of heart. This movie is completely unafraid of its unconventionality, so if you’re a big fan of It’s a Wonderful Life this probably won’t be the movie for you. It doesn’t exactly hit you over the head with holiday spirit, but it’s inspired and filled with little miracles—which is exactly what makes it a delightfully different yuletide tale. 

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) 

Everyone knows at least one person who can cite this movie word for word from memory. (I am that person.) In my opinion, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a Christmas classic. Directed by Ron Howard, this movie refuses to be cliche and conventional. The Grinch takes place in the fictional town of Whoville, which is located on a snowflake (yes, on a snowflake) and whose citizens are obsessed with Christmas. Unfazed by this peculiarity, one of the main characters, Cindy Lou Who, questions what’s so special about Christmas. She becomes fascinated by the titular character, the Grinch, a “What” who has been ostracized and who absolutely hates Christmas. Seeking the only being who might understand her, Cindy reaches out to the most feared creature in all of Whoville, inviting him to the town's holiday celebration. When the Grinch attends, chaos ensues. 

The narrator, voiced by the wonderful Anthony Hopkins, embellishes the characters' thoughts with the silly adjectives Dr. Seuss was famous for creating. What sets this movie apart from its predecessor is its infectious humor and oddly relatable theme of learning to care. Not only do we all know a Grinch, but at some point we have all probably been one. This movie communicates that Christmas is never about presents or decorations; it’s about enjoying the time you have with those you care about—no matter who or "what” they are.  

3. The Polar Express (2004) 

Another classic, The Polar Express' Christmas spirit is impossible to miss. This movie follows a group of children who are visited by a midnight steam train that takes them to the North Pole to meet Santa just before he sets off on his infamous gift-giving journey. Though the film is advertised as an animated children’s movie, there is so much more to this movie than childish Christmas fun. The Polar Express deals with themes of greed, poverty, loss, identity, and growing up. This movie was animated using CGI, which is what allowed Tom Hanks to play six characterstwo of whom are the main characters. There are musical numbers, roller-coaster-like thrill sequences, ghosts, and an unfortunate run-in with marionette puppets that was always too scary for my six-year-old nephew. There's something about the jingle of the bell on Santa’s sleigh in this movie that brings the Santa-suspecting child out of everyone. 

2. Love Actually (2003)

Not as kid-friendly as the last two recommendations, Love Actually has a star-studded British cast that is sure to leave you in tears (both from laughing and sadness). This movie follows the intertwining stories of ten characters played by Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Andre Lincoln, Keira Nightly, Chitewel Ejiofor, and more. (If it’s your first time seeing it, I can almost guarantee you’ll gasp and say “Oh my gosh, that actor is from ____ at least five times.) What makes this film so timeless is its honesty. Unlike the storytelling methods used in the previous movies on this list, Love Actually does not bank on making everyone happy in the end. There are many stories in this film that are heartbreakingly real for many people, and director Richard Curtis does not try to sugarcoat these narratives with hope and joy. He leaves the heartache open-ended, but momentarily resolved for Christmas. But don’t be fooled! This movie is still filled with love and light, and features a heart-felt monologue voiced by Hugh Grant, who plays the Prime Minister of England, that makes my best friend's mom cry every time she watches it. He says:

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrival gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always therefathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revengethey were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.”

I think this quote is particularly relevant this Christmas season. After a year of being upset over the “gloomy state of the world,” Christmas, at the very least, reminds us that love actually is all around.

1. The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

Kerry Brown—Garlands Films DAC

I’m very excited about this one, because I’m sure it will shock most people. I don't think this movie generated as much Christmas buzz as it deserved. I saw it for the first time during Halloween this year (I promise there is a valid explanation for that). After collecting myself and wiping away my tears, I was absolutely baffled by the fact that I hadn't heard of this movie sooner. It’s a risk to list a new movie as a Christmas must-watch, but don’t let the silence surrounding it fool you. This movie is based on a book of the same name by Les Standiford. It's the story behind A Christmas Carol, and what Charles Dickens went through while writing it. This movie is particularly important because it is essentially the origin story for Christmas. One of the main problems Charles Dickens (played by Dan Stevens) faces in this movie is that he is writing a book about a holiday no one cares about. During the movie, Dickens is visited by the characters in the story, and they teach him not only about himself, but what Christmas could be. This movie literally invents the Christmas spirit. The set, costumes, and storytelling are delicious and seamless. It is impossible to not fall in love with this film's visuals, and equally difficult to keep your eyes dry as the story progresses. The Man Who Invented Christmas made me want to put up a Christmas tree in the thick of spooky season, and if that’s not power, I don’t know what is. Directed by BAFTA-winning Bharat Nalluri, this movie is intuitive, colored with life, and bursting with spirit at its seams. What seems like a silly, empty idea in the beginning ultimately transforms humanity forever. 

By Elysa Rivera