While our travel and activities are restricted amid the coronavirus crisis, there are still plenty of ways to let our minds and imaginations roam free. To help you discover new sources of inspiration, we’ve put together a small selection of films and TV shows that were made by or feature CalArtians (and are also currently available on various streaming platforms).
From the indie-darling to the Hollywood blockbuster, from children’s adventure stories to psychedelic experimental animations, CalArtian filmmakers have explored and excelled in all corners of the industry:
- Beach Rats (2017), Eliza Hittman (Film/Video MFA 10) with cinematography by Scott Cummings (Film/Video MFA 07).
Hittman’s sophomore feature film, Beach Rats, follows an aimless Brooklyn teenager, escaping the bleakness of his life by experimenting with drugs and flirting with older men online. As his interactions online intensify, he begins hooking up with guys at a local cruising beach while simultaneously dating a young woman. Hittman’s sophomore feature film premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2017, where she won the Directing Award in the Dramatic competition.
Beach Rats is streaming on Hulu (with subscription), and is available to rent online through Google Play, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video.
Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003), Thom Anderson (faculty)
Expanded from a late 1990s CalArts lecture and finished in 2003, the 169-minute film essay is composed of clips from more than 200 films set in Los Angeles. Heard over scenes from famous, not-so-famous and obscure films—Chinatown, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, and The Exiles among them—is the voice of filmmaker Encke King narrating a treatise on how the City of Angels is presented on the silver screen. The narration systematically confronts and debunks, or at least adds nuance to, Hollywood-perpetrated stereotypes of Los Angeles, including the notion that nobody walks in the city.
- Black Monday, Showtime TV show starring Don Cheadle (Theater BFA 86)
The second season of Black Monday premiered on Showtime on March 15, and stars CalArts alum Cheadle. The show chronicles the 31st anniversary of the stock market crash of Oct. 19, 1987. Watch Black Monday Seasons 1 and 2, on Showtime and on Hulu (with subscription).
- Ford v. Ferrari (2019), James Mangold (Film/Video BFA 85)
An Academy award-winning film, Ford v. Ferrari is based on the true story of auto designer Carroll Shelby and race car driver Ken Miles. Despite “corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons,” the two team up to design a revolutionary Ford race car to beat Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, the oldest active sports car endurance race in the world. The film features a star-studded cast, including Christian Bale as Ken Miles and Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby.
- The Love Witch (2016), Anna Biller (Film/Video MFA 93) with cinematography by M. David Mullen (Film/Video MFA 91)
Biller’s sophomore feature film, The Love Witch tells the story of Elaine (Samantha Robinson), a beautiful but damaged woman who moves to Los Angeles with the determination to find love using seductive potions and powerful spells. However, Elaine’s magic turns tragic and the darker side of her character begins to reveal itself. The Love Witch was shot on 35mm film with cinematography by Mullen.
The Love Witch is available to stream for free with ads on Vudu, and is for rent online through Google Play, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube.
- Greener Grass (2019), produced by Natalie Metzger (Dance MFA 11)
Greener Grass is a comedy film about a bizarre suburbia where soccer moms Jill and Lisa compete for approval and acceptance. The film had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. It is available to rent online through Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.
- Beetlejuice (1988), Tim Burton (Film/Video BFA 79)
A critical success, Beetlejuice is a horror comedy film that revolves around a recently deceased couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) who become ghosts haunting their former home, and an obnoxious, devious poltergeist named Betelgeuse, who tries to scare away the new inhabitants. Rent Beetlejuice online through Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, or iTunes.
- Did You Wonder Who Fired The Gun?, Travis Wilkerson (Film/Video MFA 01)
The latest documentary by CalArts alum Wilkerson, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? begins with the painful revelation that in 1946, Wilkerson’s great-grandfather murdered Bill Spann, a black man, in Alabama and got away with it. The personal and political documentary is an investigation into Wilkerson’s family history and how it connects to more public racial injustices. One of the initial catalysts for his project was the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Wilkerson’s documentary is available to rent online through Amazon Prime Video.
- Horse Girl, Written by Alison Brie (Theater BFA 05)
A Netflix film, Horse Girl stars Brie as a sweet but troubled young woman, who begins to suffer from worsening mental instability. Horse Girl had its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It is available to stream on Netflix.
- The Book of Life, Jorge Gutierrez (Film/Video BFA 00)
Using Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) as a frame of reference, the film follows Manolo (voiced by Diego Luna), a young man living in 1920s Mexico, torn between “fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart.” Joining him in the film are two friends Maria Posada (voiced by Zoe Saldana) and Joaquin (voiced by Channing Tatum). Some of the characters are transported to the afterlife—a risky undertaking for any children’s movie.
- 7 Films by Suzan Pitt, Suzan Pitt (former faculty)
A visionary artist and influential CalArts faculty member, the late artist is remembered for her decadent, psychedelic, painterly style that bears the mark of her lifelong travels between the US, Mexico, and Europe. The Criterion Channel’s collection of films by Pitt includes her DIY masterpiece, Asparagus (1979), which toured the midnight-movie circuit on a double bill with David Lynch’s Eraserhead.
7 Films by Suzan Pitt is available to stream on The Criterion Channel (with subscription).
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Seasons 1, 2, and 3, Amazon Prime Video Original Series with cinematography by M. David Mullen (Film/Video MFA 91)
Set in the 1950s, the series follows Miriam “Midge” Maisel, who’s world takes a surprising turn when she discovers a hidden talent for stand-up comedy. The series was created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (“Gilmore Girls”). It is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video (with subscription).
We know there are so many more CalArts films and filmmakers out there that we didn’t put on this list, so tag us on social or comment below to tell us what films/shows you’re watching or want to recommend!
Related reading: Cabin Fever: A CalArts’ Spotify Playlist