I was having a conversation with a friend about films, and I realize that I hadn’t ever really thought much about my favorite films. It’s so hard to just pick one favorite, so the only way I can really identify favorites are within categories. So, here we go. If you have nothing better to do with your time, then read on about my favorite films/television series.
Favorite Harry Potter film adaptation: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
My favorite HP film adaptation, and one of my favorite book-to-film adaptations in general. Adaptations can be tricky; they almost always require some changes and creative liberties, because something that works in a book might not necessarily work in a film. HP + PoA remains true to the book, but the creative liberties that Alfonso Cuarón took work so well. Aesthetically, the film is beautiful. I mean, almost every single shot looks like a photograph. The composition of each shot is incredible. And this film is one of the few instances where time travel was actually portrayed well. This one isn’t just my favorite Harry Potter film; it’s among my favorite films, period.
Honorable mention: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 1
I know that this film actually received a lot of criticism (Harry Potter and the Really Long Camping Trip), but I personally loved this film. It was pretty true to the book, and it did a great job setting the stage for the resolution of the series. I think there was a good amount of character growth among the trio, and I really like how the film depicted how the wizarding war was also affecting the Muggle world. It had some good spurts of action, and while it may not have been the most action-packed, the emotional moments more than made up for it. We see Harry struggle and doubt himself as he tries to carry on a Horcrux search, where he doesn’t even know where to start. We see him, Hermione, and Ron on the verge of losing hope and struggling to survive and get by. It’s such a far cry from where we first see them as children; these are teenagers with a huge weight on their shoulders, trying to accomplish a mission that seems impossible and making incredible sacrifices that even adults struggle with making (leaving their families and their lives behind). There’s a lot to unpack, and it’s definitely among the best of the Potter films, in my opinion.
Film that I literally cannot find anything to criticize: Get Out
This film was brilliant. I mean, there’s no other way to say it. Everything, down to the tiny details, was so well-thought-out. The film is just such an incredible portrayal of a really relevant issue — it portrays racism in both big and small, subtle ways and really shows how pervasive it is. And, it seamlessly blends genres. It’s a horror movie, it’s a social commentary, it has comedic elements. What a way to make a directorial debut — this film put Jordan Peele right up there with my favorite directors. Like, I will watch anything he makes.
Favorite movie, ever: Interstellar
I love this film because it does well in almost every aspect of filmmaking. Great story, with substance and characters I can root for? Check. Beautiful cinematography? Check. Great performances by the cast? Check. I know that some folks said the story was predictable (surprise, Cooper was the ghost), but you know what, the story was still beautiful and heart-wrenching. I love that it combined science and philosophy and used the concept of love as a key that helps ensure the success of Plan A, and thus, humanity’s survival. I love that the film contemplates the concept of love— is it quantifiable? Why does it exist? The film is such a cool blend of science fiction and philosophy, and I think it does a great job depicting how they are interwoven and how you can’t really have one without the other.
Favorite Star Wars film: Star Wars Rogue One
I love this film because it fits so seamlessly into the existing Star Wars narrative while introducing new characters, a new story, and new twists to existing concepts. The film plays with the idea of the light and dark sides — the characters come from unlikely places and questionable pasts, yet we still root for them and they manage to pull off a feat that ultimately helps the Rebellion. Rogue One doesn’t retcon any existing canon; it doesn’t introduce storylines that render older storylines pointless. It just works. I would love to have more films like this — there’s definitely room to expand on existing storylines and characters. Maybe a film that takes place between episodes 6 and 7?
Honorable mention: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I love TLJ for the same reasons I love Rogue One. It retains the same feel of Star Wars, while introducing new twists and opening up opportunities to expand on this world and have new stories and new characters. The Last Jedi isn’t traditional, formulaic Star Wars. It introduces the gray areas between light and dark. We see the villain have glimpses of a light side and our hero have glimpses of an inner darkness. We see that some people are responsible for helping both the First Order and the Resistance. We see that the Force isn’t exclusive and meant for only Jedi or people born into certain families. That is such a cool concept, and it opens the door for more stories. I really am disappointed that J.J. Abrams essentially retconned a lot of this in TRoS — it was a wasted opportunity to add even more depth to this franchise.
Favorite book-to-screen adaptation: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix)
THIS. IS. HOW. YOU. DO. AN. ADAPTATION. It definitely helped that Daniel Handler was an executive producer as well as a screenwriter for this series. This series was just perfect. Like, the series stayed true to the books, but also added some exposition that we didn’t get in the books and that added so much more meaning to the existing stories. This is what an adaptation should be — true to the story, but with changes that add to the story and support the story, rather than detract from it. The ending was even more satisfying than the book ending (although the two had a similar ending), in light of some of the additional storylines and exposition that the TV adaptation contained. I had the pleasure of meeting Daniel Handler at a book festival, and he is just as brilliant and funny in person. He is such an incredible writer and, like Jordan Peele, I will read/watch anything he makes.
Favorite film that makes me think, every time: Inception
I love reading all the different theories about this film — questions about from whose point-of-view the film really takes place, who is really doing the inception to whom, which characters are real and not real, etc. I see new theories on this film come up each time, and each time I watch it, I find new ways to analyze it. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.
Favorite animated film: Coco
I don’t really cry, but this film made me tear up. I loved the story, and having grown up near the US-Mexican border, I really appreciated the cultural representation and the depiction of Día de los Muertos. This film had everything — character growth, humor, great music, and a really heartwarming, satisfying resolution.
Honorable mention: Tangled
I honestly liked Tangled more than Frozen. I’ll save my issues with Frozen for another post. But in short, Tangled had wonderful character development. Catchy songs. A story that moved well. An interesting villain. 10/10.
Favorite movie musical: The Greatest Showman
I love Pasek and Paul, and the songs in this film were great. Honestly, the only gripe I had with this film was that JENNY LIND IS AN OPERA SINGER, NOT A POP SINGER. I mean, can you imagine how fucking cool “Never Enough” would have sounded with an opera singer? It’s definitely opera-worthy, and I think it would have sounded way better as an opera song.
Honorable mention: The Sound of Music, Hairspray (2007)
Favorite television series (only series that have completed/been cancelled): Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mozart in the Jungle
I love BtVS because the character development in this series is insane. The show matured really well and considering how much I still love it, it definitely has longevity. The characters developed in a really believable way. The plotlines were compelling. The ending was so satisfying.
I haven’t completed the final season of MitJ, but I love this show for a few reasons: I’m a classical musician myself, and I think it’s so cool that we finally get our little moment in television. Gael García Bernal is incredible, as always. The characters are complex and fun to watch. The writing has a good dose of humor. I’m so bummed that this show got cancelled — it deserved way better.
Favorite television series (not yet completed): The Good Place, Lucifer, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Good Doctor
The Good Place is just an overall great show with great writing, that plays with interesting themes about what it means to be a good person, are people capable of change, and how our increasingly complicated world means that each decision we make has consequences we don’t even know about. It’s a lighthearted show that plays with big themes in a really creative, funny way.
Lucifer gives a really cool take on good vs. evil and Heaven vs. Hell. I mean, in Lucifer, we’re rooting for the literal devil. Tom Ellis does such a great job giving a really nuanced portrayal of Lucifer Morningstar, and seeing the devil change into someone who puts others before himself is actually really believable. It’s a nice message that everyone is worthy of redemption and everyone has the potential for redemption.
Sabrina is another show that plays on themes of good vs. evil, in a different way. I love this darker reboot of the show, and the story flows so well from season to season. I can’t wait for Season 3.
I haven’t seen the original Korean version of The Good Doctor, so I can’t speak to how it compares, but I really am loving the US version. I love that the show still has a healthy dose of science and medicine and isn’t totally consumed by the relationships among the characters. In recent episodes, there have been more relationship development rather than actual solving of medical issues, so I really hope that this show doesn’t fall into the Grey’s Anatomy Trap.
Favorite Classic Disney film: Mulan
This film has the best songs, best plot, and best characters of all the classic Disney films. I’m personally really pumped for the live-action version; I’m glad it won’t be an exact remake of the original, but it’ll still have some nods to the original (like the instrumental version of Reflection, which gave me chills!).
Honorable mention: The Lion King
Scar is probably my favorite Disney villain. He’s deliciously evil, but also sassy, sarcastic, and hilarious. His lines were some of the best, catchiest ones in the film. Mufasa is such a regal character, and yeah, I’ll admit I get emotional when I see him onscreen. And of course, the story was great and came to a really satisfying resolution.
Best Underrated Disney Sequel: The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride
I do prefer the sequel to the original Lion King film. I think that the story had a great shape, the characters were really compelling, and the songs were just better. I enjoyed Kiara and Kovu’s love story more than I did Simba and Nala’s. We really got to see Kiara and Kovu get to know each other and learn from each other, and their song, “Love Will Find a Way,” was, in my opinion, more romantic than “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” The opening scene and opening song, “He Lives in You”, packed way more of an emotional punch for me than “Circle of Life.” “My Lullaby” was right up there with “Be Prepared,” as a villain song — equally, if not more, haunting. And the resolution of the story was one that I think is still hella relevant today — acceptance of others, and the realization that we’re more alike than different.