The strongest fantasy stories depict a world which is different from our own while telling stories which are fundamental to the human condition. In the case of Pleasantville, the idyllic 1950s town is an actual paradise where the high school basketball team never loses, the fire department merely has to rescue cats trapped in trees, and dinner is always ready when you come home. But perfection, safety, and comfort are not the default, and when two real-life children introduce new ideas to the sheltered town, Pleasantville transforms from black-and-white safe space into vivid real-life.
Unlike most Hollywood films, the most remarkable aspect of Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs is undoubtedly its style. Narrative, characters, and even the themes of the film all play second fiddle to the distinct styles of Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. And still, Steve Jobs avoids the “form over substance” trap through splendid performances and a powerful story of family amid the backdrop of Jobs’ unique innovative spirit. The result is a film which we appreciate both for what it has to say, and the means in which it speaks.
It is remiss to classify The Martian as “Ridley Scott’s” or “Matt Damon’s” or with any other possessive; it is a true ensemble film. Though the story begins in serious medias res with the crew of the Ares III mission escaping a Martian dust storm and leaving Matt Damon’s Mark Watney behind on the red planet, this is not Cast Away where we dwell on our lone character for the majority of the runtime. The success of the narrative and the impact of the theme require that seemingly infinite characters aid in Watney’s survival, but also that Watney himself is capable of titanic intellectual feats. What results is a film dictating that the strength of humanity is found in the reasoning mind – from an isolated individual struggling to survive to large teams working towards effecting a rescue.