The summer period beckons us yet again, and many are already rushing to venture into new opportunities and activities. However, some of you might want to kick back and take a much-needed break after the whirlwind semester. As you lie back on the couch and flick through your list of to-watch shows on Netflix, you might begin to spiral over the endless options afforded by the streaming site. As such, we are here to ease some of that indecisiveness! In this article, we will be recommending good films, shows and books, based on a comprehensive list of unique themes. If you cannot wait to find out more, read on!
My mind is a canvas for you to paint on
Looking for inspiration, something to jolt your creativity or better your mental health? As if your mind is a blank canvas that has been primed for thick coats of paint, these recommendations will provide a splash of colour that might spur you on for your upcoming endeavours.
Abstract: The Art of Design
Source: La Nacion
Every episode of this two-season series dives into the innovative projects of designers from different disciplines, meandering through ambitious creatives, and strands of their thought-processes and inspirational work ethic. Design is omnipresent in our everyday lives, and its impact is palpable, even on those who stray far from the creative fields. If you are interested in design, or simply wish to be uplifted by the imagination of others, this show is for you.
How Do You Live?
A Japanese classic, and also animator Hayao Miyazaki’s all-time favourite, this book (written by Genzaburo Yoshino and translated in English by Bruno Navasky) presents touching, philosophical narratives of what it means to live in this large, complex universe. Glean inspirational moral lessons as you follow a young boy who navigates through life with awareness and introspection. We encourage you to immerse yourself in this heart-warming read before its adapted screenplay (written and directed by Miyazaki himself) is released!
No thoughts, head empty
This set of recommendations will appeal to those who wish to switch off their brains after a semester of its active usage.
Murder Mystery / Murder Mystery 2
Source: Good Morning America
Chaos, comedy and twists ensue when the Spitz couple, played by Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, set off for getaways with their billionaire friends. Both installations in this film series are sure to keep you entertained for their short durations, funny antics and endless drama (coupled with some proper mystery)! Kick up your feet and unwind after a long day (or semester) with these films, and immerse in a good ol’ whodunnit comedy. Available on Netflix.
A childhood favourite for some, this animated series starring a friendly green ogre never gets old. Shrek manages to explore topics such as friendship and family through a fairytale setting, proving itself to be a timeless classic that provides entertainment and adventure for all ages. If you miss those carefree days of indulging in cartoons after school, these films will offer you the chance to turn off your brain and relive some of those youthful memories! Available on Amazon Prime.
Act Your Age, Eve Brown
Look, we get it. The effort and determination it takes to read a book can sometimes feel insurmountable. However, this easy read, nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Romance in 2021, might change your mind. This fun romance features a main character who is trying to find herself amidst her often chaotic life… perhaps many of us can relate to her. We suggest picking this up in its audiobook version, especially if you do not feel up to digesting text after a semester’s worth of (probably intense) readings!
No thoughts, just vibes
This is an enhanced version of the previous set of recommendations – sit back and experience the immaculate ‘vibes’ from these films and books!
My Neighbour Totoro
Source: The Big Issue
This surreal, beautifully-animated film quickly feels warm and familiar, even on first watch. The world of Totoro and other lovable characters bursts at the seams with fantasy, colour and camaraderie, making you wish you could stay on after the short 1 hour 26 min of runtime. Come for the famous Totoro, and stay for the emotional union amongst friends and creatures alike. Available on Netflix.
Blade Runner 2049
Looking to immerse yourself in good cinematography, or overall just some ‘aesthetic’ vibes? Blade Runner 2049 might be the film for you. A visual feast with a long runtime of 2 hours 43 min, this epic science fiction film will take you on a trip through a post-apocalyptic world, and charm you with its striking colour palette. Even if the plot grows confusing, there is no harm in enjoying its pretty visuals, and letting your brain’s cogwheels take a break. Available on Netflix.
Kafka on the Shore
Perhaps you have heard of Japanese author Haruki Murakami, famous for magic realism and stories about everyday life written in sharp prose. Kafka on the Shore provides a classic Murakami experience that can only be truly understood through reading the book. Follow two interweaving narratives presented with easy-to-read prose and be taken on a vivid, surrealist journey. The vibes here will be immaculate and one-of-a-kind.
If stress from school was not enough for you…
Here are some anxiety-inducing recommendations instead that will get your heart racing for sure. Watch with caution!
Source: No Film School
No lie, this crime thriller film is not for the faint-hearted. It opens with a dreamy, psychedelic sequence that permeates through a rare opal gem found during mining, and is likely the only time for viewers to catch their breath before the upcoming gripping tale of a jeweller and his high-stakes gamble. This dreamy-looking A24 film is more nightmare-inducing than anything, but we guarantee that you will be left at the edge of your seat all the way until the credits roll. Available on Netflix.
Source: Los Angeles Times
The Main Title Theme of Succession’s soundtrack possibly tells you everything you need to know about the show before you jump into it. Composed by Nicholas Britell, classical tunes produced by piano keys and dramatic strings are disrupted by a distorted, hip-hop-sounding bass line and heavy drums beats– dissonant yet addictive, this piece brilliantly encapsulates the chaos of the Roy family, or rather, empire, and the trials and tribulations they face as the largest media conglomerate in the world of Succession. Strip away the excesses of wealth and fame to reveal power struggles, family dysfunction and lots of back-stabbing. If fast-paced, snarky dialogue, social commentary, dark-humour satire, flawed characters and stressful, gripping plots are up your alley, we implore you not to miss out on this masterpiece. Available on HBO.
Source: Cafe Powell
The first half of this delicate film is anxiety-inducing; a suffocating watch. Intense and emotional, this realistic drama tells a tale of a mother and her young son struggling to cope with a years-long, distressful hostage situation, and how they attempt to ease into ‘normal life’ after escape. Another raw and unflinchingly brutal production by A24, this film will provide you with great amounts of stress, but pays it off with a stirring performance and a touching story. Available on HBO.
Don’t get it twisted, because I already am
Want something unpredictable and twisted to placate the dark spiral in your mind? Dip your toes into mind-bending realities slightly tinged with horror to get some of that craved-for adrenaline pumping. Note: Check for trigger warnings before diving into any of these recommendations!
Source: Yahoo Movies UK
This A24 folk horror film directed by Ari Aster could be hard to watch for some. One might describe it as an idyllic retreat to a summery Swedish countryside gone wrong – but the plot is far richer and more twisted than meets the eye. Pretty scenes featuring colourful flowers are interspersed with underlying terror; bizarre rituals result in jaw-dropping outcomes that were long hinted at through the artful use of unsuspecting symbols in the film. If you are prepared for a twisted and emotional original, we suggest you go into this film blind. Available on Apple TV.
Source: Big Picture Film Club
Curious about the ‘80s yuppie (young urban professional) culture in corporate America? Set in New York City, this black comedy horror film stars a deeply-troubled investment banker (played by the masterful Christian Bale) who is determined to keep up his charismatic, put-together appearance during his day job, whilst balancing his violent tendencies that surface by night. A twisted interplay between fragile egos, toxic masculinity and the realities of work cultures born out of capitalism and consumerism, this classic thriller will be anything but boring. Available on Apple TV.
A quirky, offbeat novel written by Sayaka Murata, this story about a funny child called Natsuki quickly descends into unflinchingly twisted and shocking plotlines. Earthlings is highly-original and humorous in a peculiar manner. The only way you can experience its wonderfully unpredictable universe is by jumping straight into the book without reading anything else about it!
Quick, a fast one before it ends
Before you head out, here is a quick list of recommendations to wrap up the list. These range from fast-paced films to short story collections, all of which are easily-digestible and would pass you by in a blur.
Source: South China Morning Post
Staggeringly exciting and elegantly fast-paced, this classic wuxia film directed by Zhang Yimou truly lives up to its star-studded cast (Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Donnie Yen, Tony Leung and more). The film boasts an epic, cautionary tale that is accompanied by impressively choreographed martial arts, making it a classic Chinese film that should not be missed. Available on Disney Plus.
The Darjeeling Limited
For a film that has a short 1 hour 31 min runtime, one might expect it to be hurried or simple. The Darjeeling Limited is quite the opposite of that. Wes Anderson’s idiosyncrasies and quirky cinematographic styles showcase themselves in full force here. While the film passes by quickly, its story meanders through complex themes of family, friendship, and finding oneself with gorgeous scenes of India as a backdrop. Coloured with the right amount of dramatic absurdity and off-beat humour, this quick watch will be a memorable one.
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories
This fine short story collection by Ken Liu is easily digestible, and absolutely charming. Featuring his popular, award-winning story, The Paper Menagerie (read it for free here!), Liu’s collection of science fiction, fantasy offers something for everyone, even if you are not a typical fan of these genres. From emotional gut-punches to commentaries on technology, strap in for a whirlwind of powerful prose that will release you as quickly as it captures you.
Phew, that was quite a list, wasn’t it? What do you think of our recommendations – let us know if you have watched or read any of them. Share your own recommendations on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife, as we would love to read about it and repost for more to see! We hope that you have a restful summer break, and do remember to take care of yourself 🙂