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Last year The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (you know, the people behind the Oscars) declared the second Saturday of February Global Movie Day, and with the second anniversary coming up tomorrow, we wanted to celebrate the power of movies and the movers and shakers behind those films that inspire and connect people across the globe.
Now, there are countless directors, writers, producers, actors, editors, and other movie makers that have left an obvious impact on the film industry, whether that be in their genre, their country, what have you, but here’s a select few as well as book recommendations for each to hold you off until feature film releases become a norm again and you can enjoy their next big movie.
The House of Scorpion for Bong Joon-ho Fans
Bong Joon-ho blew up in the past year with his six Oscar nominations and four wins (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and International Feature Film) for Parasite. You may also recognize him as the director and writer of Snowpiercer (the 2013 movie, not the HBO series), Okja, or his older films Memories of Murder and The Host. What do monster horrors, sci-fi dystopias, and crime thrillers have in common, other than the presence of actor Song Kang-ho? Bong’s consistent and brutal commentary on societal class structures and questions that ask: what makes a human deserving of basic rights and who should have the power to decide such things. Nancy Farmer’s The House of Scorpion explores similar questions through the fictional territory of Opium, its tyrannical leader El Patrón, and his clone Matteo. And similar to how Bong follows a simple but impactful directing style that stylistically follows and breaks cinematic rules, Farmer’s adjacent treatment of the iconic hero’s journey separates this story from its peers and earned it the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, a Newbery Honor award, a Michael L. Printz Honor award, and numerous speculative fiction awards.
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The Hate U Give for Spike Lee Fans
Where to start with Spike Lee? If we count his shorts, he’s been around since 1979 cranking out unforgettable films like Do the Right Thing (causing one of the more iconic Oscar snub controversies), Malcom X (the original screenplay drafted by James Baldwin), Bamboozled (a biting satire, receiving mixed reception and cult classic status), and BlacKkKlansman (based on the wild and true story of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American police officer in Colorado Springs). The majority of these films highlight American racism—whether that be urban crime, colorism in the black community, or the role of media in the black experience—often through historical and contemporary lenses. An obvious book choice for Spike Lee fans would be to read Ron Stallworth’s memoir Black Klansman, but while you’re at that, you’ll want to read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas as well, the story of a young black girl who witnesses the shooting of her unarmed, childhood friend at the hands of a cop and the local controversy that follows. Honestly, you’ll want to read all of Thomas’s books including On the Come Up and her latest Concrete Rose as, like Lee’s films, they frankly and honestly illustrate the experience of a black person living in modern day America.
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Once Upon a Con series for Christina Hodson Fans
Christina Hodson’s screenplays may have only popped up in recent years with releases like Bumblebee and Birds of Prey, but depending on who you ask, her writing has added some well-paced, genuinely fun, and refreshing content to these big name (and sometimes stall) franchises. Her debut screenplay for Shut-In also earned the film a spot on the 2012 Black List (a survey of the “most-liked,” unproduced films and a big honor), so she’s already making a name for herself and working on the screenplays for other big budget films like 2022’s The Flash and the eventual Batgirl screenplay, which she took over from Joss Whedon. With that in mind you can jump into The Flash or Batgirl comics (give the Rebirth run of Batgirl or Nijkamp and Preitano’s The Oracle Code a try for Batgirl specifically), but you could also pick up Ashley Poston’s Once Upon a Con series, starting with Geekerella. Poston adds a just as refreshing amount of heart, humor, and relatability to the sci-fi geeky experience than Hodson does to the comic geeky experience, and with three books in the series, you’ll have plenty to catch up on while you wait for Hodson’s next best contribution to the geeky film industry.
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PTSD for Charlize Theron Fans
One of the many amazing action queens and the perfecter of the murderous queen walk, Charlize Theron has starred in numerous action movies from Aeon Flux and Mad Max: Fury Road to Atomic Blonde and The Old Guard as well as non-action films like Gringo, Monster, Bombshell, and Tully. She’s also produced a good number of movies, but no matter which she aligns with, you can always expect a film with Theron attached to it to have complicated, standout women, who illustrate the complexities of womanhood from stay-at-home mothers to workplace sexism to raw female rage that has as much of a place in media as male rage does. If you’re looking for a strong, layered, and compelling protagonist that also happens to be a woman, then you’ll want to give the adult graphic novel, PTSD by Guillaume Singelin, a try. Singelin introduces you to Jun, a homeless war veteran struggling with addiction, mental and physical wounds, and her transitioning from traumatic war times to civilian life. Among all that is a story of a woman re-learning how to trust, show compassion, be vulnerable, and define humanity. It’s a short enough story, but one with a lot of heart. If you need something else to dive into after, give Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández’s The Old Guard a try to compare the Theron movie to the original comics (note: they’re both great!).
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Bites of Terror for Taika Waititi Fans
Performance, acting, comedy, directing, screenwriting, producing—you name it, Taika Waititi’s done it. His feature length films started off strong with Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, two of New Zealand’s highest grossing films, until he gained more global recognition when movies like What We Do in the Shadows (the 2014 film, not the FX series) grew in popularity, where he stars as a 379-year-old, German vampire. Let’s not forget his latest releases, Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit, the latter a six-time Oscar nominee and Best Adapted Screenplay winner, as well as his directing of The Mandalorian’s amazing season one finale. Whether he’s working on mockumentaries or big budget films for Marvel, he brings with him a snappy sense of humor, a purposeful color palette, and a surprising amount of depth, often in his characters' individual experiences. With those themes in mind, Taika Waititi fans could find themselves enjoying Bites of Terror by Liz and Jimmy Reed, a collection of 10 frightfully delicious tales, jam-packed with food puns and dark humor, colorful dioramas and comic layouts, and characters with shockingly human concerns and struggles.
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Everything, Everything for Makoto Shinkai Fans
If you’re a Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli fan (ie. Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky) or a Makoto Shinkai/Studio Chizu fan (ie. Wolf Children, Mirai, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), you may have heard of CoMix Wave Films or Makoto Shinkai, the writer and director of stunning movies like Your Name (the third highest grossing anime film of all time) and more recently, Weathering With You. Shinkai likes contrast, playing with lighting, saturated colors that pop, and catchy, heartfelt songs for that extra bit of emotional impact. He also likes young love, separated by something drastic like time, location, or individual experiences, and the touching moments that follow when the two love interests finally overcome their obstacles and can be together. It makes for a rewarding, romantic watch, similar to how Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything makes for a rewarding, romantic read. The main character, Maddy, has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), which requires her to remain in her sterilized home with her mother and nurse, but when a new family moves in next door, a romance sparks between her and the teenager, Olly, via email. Sounds appealing, huh, Shinkai fans? If you find yourself enjoying Everything, Everything, try Nicola Yoon’s other titles The Sun Is Also a Star and her upcoming Instructions for Dancing.
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Pop Classics series for Lord & Miller Fans
Did the filmmaking duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have any part in the making of the cult classic films the Pop Classics series are based off of? Not at all, but these Academy Award-winners directed, wrote, and produced some of the funniest, most stylish, and most heartfelt animated films in recent years. Sure, they’ve directed live-action movies like 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street, but they’ve really found their niche with films like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie (1 & 2), and Oscar winner Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The Pop Classics series features similar crowd-pleasers from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial to Home Alone (1&2), and when you look at what makes those movies special—the clever humor and surprising heart—Lord & Miller fans could easily enjoy cartoon, kid-friendly adaptations of these classic narratives, especially with Kim Smith’s beautiful and detailed illustrations.
Trollhunters for Guillermo del Toro Fans
Guillermo del Toro may best be known for works like The Shape of Water (thirteen Academy Award nominations and four wins, by the way), Pan’s Labyrinth, the Pacific Rim movies, the Hellboy movies, and spookier films like Crimson Peak, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and The Witches (well, that one’s more weird than scary), but did you know he wrote his own YA book with Daniel Kraus? That’s right! We’re talking about Trollhunters, the one book that sparked a Dreamworks/Netflix TV series, which was nominated for nine Daytime Emmy Awards and resulted in two spin-off series as well as an upcoming feature film. Trollhunters the book has Del Toro’s iconic humor, adventure, and unsettling and potentially gruesome horror, and Sean Murphy’s imaginative illustrations really help bring those Del Toro moments to life.
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