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TIFF 2019: Student by day, tired by night

U of T undergrad on her time starring in a TIFF film

TIFF 2019: Student by day, tired by night

Dear Readers,

My name is Mick Robertson. I am a fourth-year student, a writer, and an actress. Most recently, I played the lead in Sofia Banzhaf’s short film, I am in the World as Free and Slender as a Deer on a Plain. Luckily for me, this sweet short just had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). And so, for my Varsity friends, I kept a little log. Here are some selections that I would like to share, from the first six days of the festival.

Day one, Thursday, September 5:

I wish I could start this series by saying, ‘I went to a party where I was the lamest person, which I was cool with, because the room was filled with STARS!’ But that would be a lie, and unfortunately my editor is holding me to ‘journalistic standards,’ despite my being a dramatist.

Day two, Friday, September 6:

I watch Black Conflux by Nicole Dorsey, which the director of my film, Sofia Banzhaf, is in. As I step onto the escalator at the Scotiabank Theatre, the woman behind me is stopped by a volunteer and asked to show her ticket. Nobody has asked me for a ticket yet. Either I’m too quick for the volunteers to catch me or this pass around my neck is working its magic. After the film, I run uptown to see a comedic magic show, but that’s a story for another time.

Day three, Saturday, September 7:

Today is the day that my film premieres. I spend my morning buying boob tape. I spend my afternoon doing overdue work on my computer as my sister curls my hair. A good sister, my Martha.

At the cinema, I swap giddy smiles with my friends and family as I am welcomed to the front of the auditorium. The show is sold out and the theatre is so much larger than I had anticipated. The lights dim and my movie is up first. I count the minutes as my dad and I are in the same room watching my character watch anime porn. When the credits roll, a loved one leans over our shared armrest and whispers to me in the dark, “Congratulations! I am so proud of you!” Ahh, warmth.

Outside of the theatre, and we’re all gabbing. “I like it when you’re huge,” my boyfriend says. My mom and dad approach. Uh-oh. A shiver goes down my spine as I think about them watching me ‘try to S-E-X’ with so many men. My big, tough, vegan dad shakes his head, and then says with a sigh, “You know, you told me about the sex and the drugs but you did not tell me about the stirloin.” He laughs and so do I. “You look like Scarlett Johansson on the big screen!” says my overly-generous Mom.

Day four, Sunday, September 8:

I spend the morning workshopping a script with friends and spend the evening watching There’s Something In the Water by my lonesome. This makes me cry — not my being alone, but the documentary. Directed by Ellen Page and Ian Daniel, There’s Something In the Water examines environmental racism in Nova Scotia. After the film, the cast and crew take the stage to answer questions. The room rises to its feet. The passion is palpable.

Day five, Monday, September 9:

I miss my morning class to watch Marriage Story by Noah Bombach. And so, I cry both Sunday night and Monday morning. I have a soft spot for sad love stories. I wish I didn’t, but I do.

Day six, Tuesday, September 10:

Log written at 12:30 pm:

I’m on a mission to get free stuff today! I had to skip another morning class for a last minute photoshoot — whoops, oh well! Afterward, I took a gander around the TIFF village. I got free coffee and free hair conditioner! I realized that there’s free coffee all over TIFF, you just have to know where to find it. I take a professional air when ordering my espresso, hoping to mask the stench of a scavenging student. But alas, I realize that the stench is not metaphorical but that this morning while getting dressed up, I forgot to wear deodorant.

After a quick run to Shoppers Drug Mart, I sit and people watch in the industry centre. I watch as industry folk bump into each other. ‘I wish my friends were here,’ I think.

Additional log at 3:45 pm, typed exactly as written in my notebook:

“Drank too much free beer coffee + then I had a beer at a meeting. Now I have to go to my classics class. Hopefully we grow older as we grow wiser.”*

*I would like to note that at this point I absolutely went home and ate sweet potatoes until I felt better before heading to class. Take care of yourself, folks!

Current place, current time:

As I sit here and write in Robarts — relatable content — the festival is creeping closer and closer to its conclusion on Sunday. That said, there are still many movies to see and plenty of studying to fall behind on.

I would like to thank The Varsity for inviting me to write this piece, and in doing so providing me with a reason to sit down in this whirlwind time and reflect on all of the things I am learning and loving about being around movies. If anyone is reading this and wants to make films, well, I want to make them too! Please feel free to reach out to me. Who knows? Maybe a bunch of us could be back here with a film next fall.

If you would like to see some of Roberston’s work, she invites you to attend a reading of Lone Island Lovers at the Luella Massey Studio Theatre on September 21 at 2:00 pm.

TIFF 2019: Parasite

One of the best thrillers of the last 20 years

TIFF 2019: <em>Parasite</em>

Last week at the 44th Toronto International Film Festival, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho premiered his newest film, Parasite, to a Canadian audience. Not a second is wasted in the film’s more-than-two-hour hour runtime as Parasite slowly builds from a sardonic black comedy to its electrifying conclusion, making its audience toggle between bursts of laughter and squirms of discomfort along the way.

Parasite focuses on the interweaving lives of two South Korean families in vastly different economic situations: the Kims, who live below the poverty line in a cramped, sub-basement apartment; and the absurdly wealthy Park family, who live in a sleek mansion far away from the Kims’ poverty-stricken neighborhood.

When Ki-Woo, a member of the Kim family played by Choi Woo-shik, ends up securing a job as a private English tutor for the Parks’ daughter, played by Jung Ji-so, Parasite’s tale of deception begins to slowly unravel itself. What begins as a Robin Hood-esque tale of mischief devolves into something far more sinister, intricate, and highly entertaining.

In one of the film’s earliest gags, the Kims’ upstairs neighbor puts a password on their router due to the Kims’ freeloading, forcing them to sneak onto a nearby café’s connection in order to get on WhatsApp and stay up-to-date with the world and job openings.

This leads into a small, comedic exchange among the family, showcasing how often this modern utility is taken for granted and just how quickly we are to notice its absence. Right out the gate, this tale of internet theft ends up setting the tone for the rest of the film, firmly cementing Parasite’s world in a contemporary reality where one’s socioeconomic status often dictates their quality of life and access to everyday luxuries.

Gone are the fantasy and sci-fi elements of Joon-ho’s most recent features — for example, 2013’s post-apocalyptic thriller Snowpiercer, starring Chris Evans. Instead, Joon-ho chooses a twenty-first century capitalist society as the backdrop for this thriller, where every twist and turn is entirely conceivable.

Social commentary aside, Parasite never reduces its two families into a mere set of archetypes or symbols. Instead, it carefully crafts its moments of humor and tenderness to paint a realistic portrait of the film’s main cast. The Kims are not portrayed as characters we should pity, but rather they manage to garner the viewer’s respect and admiration through their shared charm, charisma, and resilience in the face of adversity.

The self-centered and vapid Park family often display their humanity, garnering the audience’s sympathy and attention, even as they are rooting for the conniving Kims. Joon-ho himself has described the film as “a comedy without clowns and a tragedy without villains.” This sentiment rings true throughout every moment of Parasite.

Joon-ho’s gentle balance between extremes is proof that the director is working at the peak of his abilities. Especially in the film’s latter half, long portions of it would often go on without a breath heard in the theatre, as everyone anxiously anticipates the main characters’ next daring move. The silence would then be broken by a lewd remark, absurd bit of slapstick, or sudden violence without warning.

Attachments to characters are built, destroyed, and restored several times over the course of the film, building toward a climax that switches the gaze away from the misfit families and instead toward the capitalist countries that allow the vast wealth disparities it showcases to occur in the first place.

Parasite goes on sale as part of the TIFF Bell Lightbox’s regular-season screenings starting October 2.

TIFF 2019: Honey Boy

On the circularity of trauma

TIFF 2019: <em>Honey Boy</em>

Content warning: mentions of physical and emotional abuse and alcohol use disorder.

Described by director Alma Har’el as a film made by and for children of people with alcohol use disorder, 2019’s Honey Boy was is set up to be an emotional ordeal from its get-go. Having had its international premiere last week at the 44th annual Toronto International Film Festival, Honey Boy is a story told through two interconnecting timelines.

The film details the life of a child actor named Otis, played by Noah Jupe, and his experience growing up in the presence of his physically and emotionally abusive father, James, played by Shia LaBeouf. With a screenplay written by and based on Shia LaBaouf’s own upbringing, Honey Boy is an intimate tale of Otis’s trauma and exorcising of personal demons that ends up coalescing into a work of art that will surely resonate with its audience.

The film follows Otis through two stages of his life: 1995, when Otis is just a twelve-year-old actor on an unnamed sitcom — but one that is definitely based on Disney Channel’s Even Stevens. The second period takes place in 2005, where a 22-year-old Otis, now played by Lucas Hedges from the critically acclaimed A24 films LadyBird and Mid90s, now spends his days in  rehabilitation as a Hollywood star with an alcohol use disorder.

Har’el switches between the two timelines through a series of clever transitionary sequences where Otis ends up interacting with some object or physical space that parallels an experience his other self has, or will, experience.

In one such instance, an older Otis is in rehabilitation and cleaning a chicken coop when he is reminded of his father who, in his own youth, was a less-than-successful rodeo clown who often used chickens in his showcases. These aimless chickens return throughout the film as a hilarious and surreal motif that often leads Otis into some of his most heart-wrenching revelations. Never has a chicken aimlessly prancing around been so emotionally impactful.

At times self-referential and fourth-wall-breaking, Honey Boy is also a film about film itself. Har’el is very invested in exploring the cathartic process of filmmaking itself through the kitschy, mainstream comedies and action flicks that Otis — and Labeouf — once starred in. At certain points in the film, it becomes difficult to distinguish between Otis’ memories, his reality, and his acting on a film set.

Otis’ timelines interweave not only with one another, but with the sitcoms and action movies sets he’s working on. Whether it be through slapstick, prop humor or high-octane stunt sequences, the shoots often have Otis undergoing some form of a physical or emotional challenge as the scripts begin to parallel his real life. This blending of timelines and realities helps elevate the movie from straight-forward, narrative biopic into an experimental, reality-bending film.

In the post-screening Q&A session with the cast and director, LaBeouf was quick to point out that he wrote this movie for himself and, more importantly, for his own father. Labeouf’s portrayal of his father is revelatory in its ability to make one feel so angry at his failures as a father yet also be the focus of so much of our sympathies.

To see a person so openly face their own demons on screen was one of the festival’s most emotionally-impactful moments. Honey Boy’s greatest strength is in its ability to combine dream-like vignettes with wonderful dialogue to create moments of beauty in the most unexpected of places. Whether that place is a chicken coop, a Hollywood film set or a highway interstate, Har’el’s cast of misfits manages to bring a smile — and a tear — to everyone’s face.

Honey Boy hits theatres on November 8, 2019.

TIFF 2019: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Two Varsity writers are mesmerized by Céline Sciamma’s stunning feature film

TIFF 2019: <em>Portrait of a Lady on Fire</em>

When the lights came up in the Winter Garden theatre mere seconds after the credits began to roll, I felt betrayed by the caustic brightness. I was positively sobbing. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is French director Céline Sciamma’s fourth feature film, and it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May. After it won the screenplay prize at the festival, I knew that it was going to be good, and after watching all of Sciamma’s past work to prepare, I knew it was going to be even better than I thought. Finally, after seeing the film at TIFF this year, reader, I can only describe it as the most admirable film I have ever seen.

This period piece follows a young painter named Marianne, who is commissioned for a portrait of a subject who refuses to be painted. Each shot is as beautiful as Marianne’s painting, lit with only natural light and photographed largely outdoors at a cliffside beach and inside the simple French mansion. The pureness of the blacks and the starkness of the whites in the frame punctuate moments of stirring dialogue. Sciamma spends a great deal of time with Marianne’s meticulous hand, sketching and painting various pivotal moments of the film.

The nature of her work is classical, but it’s imbued with bottomless integrity and emotion. As Marianne notes, the conventions of art at the time are specific and limiting, while Sciamma’s approach to her own art is profound and riveting.

Marianne and Héloïse share glances and whispers, and much of the film is composed of watching them look at each other. These prolonged moments of looking might have been lifeless, but the coursing energies between the two are captivating. It is also quite radical, as the way they look at each other, and indeed the way Sciamma’s camera soaks them up, embodies a new sort of gaze for the cinema, one that is distinctly intimate and distinctly female. Unlike an unfortunate number of films with queer subject matter, Portrait of a Lady on Fire could never be accused of hetero-lensed lesbian relations to check some representational box. The beauty of the film lies in the core of what it means for women to love women; their lesbian relations are not incidental but integral.

So much of their courtship is quiet and unsaid, until it isn’t. Marianne and Héloïse are scared but thrilled, and because of the generally reserved contact their smiles are cathartic expressions of joy. At the post-film Q&A, Sciamma told us that she often uses music to act as an important moment of dramatic composition, and several times in the film this comes to fruition. Most notably in a striking scene around a bonfire where a choir performs acapella, and in a final churning and astonishing shot.

Beyond these few moments of musical release, the soundtrack is silent, as we are consumed by the growing joy and liveliness of Marianne and Héloïse’s relationship. We spend so much time with these heroines that, when a man appears near the end of the film, it truly feels jarring. The currents running through the film are feminine and bold, and they feel like less of a statement and more of a given.

When I exited the theatre I found myself in a rainstorm on Victoria street, sure that I looked like a wreck, I could only smile. I would not call this movie sad, or happy, or any word that suggests I could quantify exactly what Portrait of a Lady on Fire did to me. I would not even say fabulous, effective, exquisite. I would call this movie unimpeachably perfect, and so invested in art’s ability to make you feel that it absorbed all of my feelings and left me shipwrecked in a rainy downtown Toronto. Sciamma has unlocked something here, something so devastating and sparkly that it’s a wonder we ever lived without it.

TIFF 2019: Disco

A compassionate yet exhausting display of mental illness and fundamentalist religion

TIFF 2019: <em>Disco</em>

Disco is Jorunn Myklebust Syversen’s second feature film, and the Norwegian director managed to create a thumping, flashing treatise on cult-like religious devotion.

The film stars the Toronto International Film Festival’s 2019 Rising Star Josephine Frida, and follows her character Mirjam through trials of dance and faith alike. These dance competitions are somewhere between a gymnastics floor routine and Toddlers and Tiaras, as we open on a glittery compilation of dancers of many ages set to a strident electronic song.

Our first moment with Mirjam is a long shot of her barely-faltering smile as she waits to compete. It’s eerie, and although she doesn’t smile often in the film, the forced, labored effect never fades. This also immediately introduces us to one of Syversen’s most employed techniques — the long take. We spend enough time on Mirjam’s bruising smile so that we can note each individual piece of glitter on her face.

Mirjam is active in her church, a shiny millennial rebranding of Christianity called Freedom. Her stepfather speaks in the services often, a kind of Justin-Timberlake-knockoff pastor. Mirjam’s entire family, including her younger sister, is consumed by Freedom.

This is a highly fundamentalist institution, although the pink neon lights and pounding club music attempts to create a gauzy overlay. Syversen draws a comparison between the highly-athletic and performative dance sequences and the extended scenes of monologuing by Mirjam’s stepfather, suggesting the mental gymnastics required in both contexts.

Through long sections of the film that are spent listening to speakers at Freedom, Syversen lets her audience ponder the content themselves and hone in on the specific way that Mirjam’s church will fail her.

Mirjam has a spectral pain from a childhood incident that her mother refuses to tell her about, as well as anxiety and an eating disorder. She begins to crumble as the exertion required between her dance and church performances starts to eat her up inside. Frida is remarkable in her performance, staring deep down the lens of the camera and willing the audience to recognize her ache.

Frida is highly internalized, seldom speaking during her scenes at the beginning, and almost never raising her voice by its end. We are watching a woman drown in her own mind, and Frida plays it as if she’s grieving, over God, sure, but mostly over herself. When Mirjam plugs into recorded sermons from American mega-churches, the searching in her eyes and soul is detectable.

When she begins fainting during her competitions, her mother and stepfather insist that her faith is wavering — if she only believed harder, trusted harder, she would feel better. The shame of her faith being questioned and her neglected personal issues push her on a dangerous path toward a more fanatical religious cult.

Syversen’s sustained scenes of church sermons are cut together with personal meetings Mirjam has with her uncle. The inundation of religious rhetoric is suffocating, with Syversen expertly creating the sense that there is literally nowhere else to turn.

By putting the audience in the same position as Mirjam, Syversen composes a compassionate, if exhausting view of mental illness and fundamentalist religion. Watching Disco is watching someone be betrayed by her family and her faith. The failings of the institution to consider any different method of coping is clear. Syversen is not exactly grinding an axe against religion, but creates a flashing neon sign that warns all those who enter.

As the film builds to a clanging finale, her point is made. No one can survive on faith alone.

Disco hits theatres September 7.

TIFF 2019: Bacurau

A film laden with such rich fictional imagery that it feels anything but fake

TIFF 2019: <em>Bacurau</em>

There are some things you just expect to see when you watch a western: cowboys, horses, a cactus here and there, a dramatic standoff with an ominous bird’s caw in the background. Bacurau, a Brazilian movie described in its official synopsis as a “weird western,” has all of that and more. Directors Kleber Mendonca Filho and Juliano Dornelles understand that having “weird” as a qualifier for your movie requires truly weird things; so take all the aforementioned spaghetti western tropes and add Nazis, UFOs, and futuristic technology, and you have Bacurau in a nutshell.

The film’s first shot is of a satellite slowly floating through space, and as suddenly as the vast emptiness of space appears on the screen, it disappears, and we are taken to a different kind of vast emptiness: that of rural Brazil. Part desert, part forest, with some regions exposed to sweltering heat, others perpetually soaked in rain, our main character Teresa ­— played by Bárbara Colen — drives in a water truck to the fictional town of Bacurau. But to call Teresa a main character would be a disservice to both Teresa and the movie, because there is only one clear character throughout the entire film and that is the town itself.

We are introduced to Bacurau through its inhabitants, presented to us in sequences and orders that can only be called chaotic. A nude botanist who collects seeds that have psychedelic effects, an old, wise doctor who becomes vulgar when she drinks, and a protective gangster who’s trigger happy with his gun; the residents of Bacurau appear to have individual capabilities so eccentric, you have trouble believing they coexist in the same small village. But, then again, so do the buildings: a church that is not used for prayer, but rather for storage, and a cultural museum that no one seems to have an interest in. The infrastructure and the villagers end up working together synergistically in the finale, supporting the idea that the inhabitants and the structures in Bacurau are truly an amalgamation of just one thing: Indigenousness.

But Bacurau’s issue is not in unifying its residents, who are introduced to us divided because of a harsh political climate, the real danger facing our characters is the fact that they are being physically hunted — but to reveal more is to reveal the tricks Filho and Dornelles have cleverly hidden throughout their two hour movie.

Bacurau is a stern reminder that ability does not grant permission; having the technology to do something doesn’t mean that it actually should be done. Contrasting cultural traditions, like funerals and dances with sleek technological apparatuses and folklore tales with contrived debates about morality and race, Filho and Dornelles draw a stark line between their heroes and their villains. Today’s narratives tend to offer commonalities between protagonists and antagonists — two people with the same life trajectory, which deviates at one specific point, conveniently labelling one the ‘goodie’ and the other the ‘baddie’ — but Bacurau does no such thing. And in that sense, it truly is faithful to classic westerns: no ambiguity, no redeeming qualities for the villains,  and heroes that are easy to cheer for.

Bacurau is a movie about a fictional town named after a fictional bird, filled with fictional people who practise fictional traditions — but their hunters, our villains, are anything but fictional. And therein lies the real magic of Bacurau: we are able to so emphatically root for our heroes, a people completely foreign to us, because we are so familiar with the evil that is hunting them.

TIFF 2019: Waves

“Life doesn’t end at the worst moment, it keeps going”

TIFF 2019: <em>Waves</em>

Waves, Trey Edward Shults’  new feature-length drama, will leave you speechless. A stunned silence was followed by a three-minute-long standing ovation at the end of this visual masterpiece.

If you enjoyed Euphoria, Mid90s, Moonlight, or Ladybird, you are sure to love A24’s newest powerhouse. Waves is a whimsical drama about an African-American family trying to navigate their way through the complexities of adulthood: joy, love, loss, and grief.

In the same vein of Wong Kar-wai’s classic Chungking Express, Waves is tastefully split into two acts: the first is centered on Tyler, impeccably played by Kelvin Harrison Jr., while  the second act is led by his quiet younger sister Emily, played by Taylor Russell. Tyler — no doubt channeling Frank Ocean with his buzzed-cut bleach-blonde hair — is in his senior year of high school.

Tyler has a bright future ahead of him as the star on the school’s wrestling team and with a beautiful cheerleader girlfriend, Alexis, who is played by Euphoria star Alexa Demie. Sterling K. Brown, known from the show This is Us, is phenomenal as Ronald,  Tyler’s intense father,  who is consistently pushing him past his limits.

When Tyler steals his dad’s pain killers to cope with a critical shoulder injury, his seemingly perfect family begins to unravel. After a series of heated arguments fueled with booze and drugs, the two get into a physical fight, creating a palpable sense of anxiety down that travels down the viewer’s spine.

It is during the climax of the film that Waves entered the realm of sheer brilliance. The first act  was shot beautifully in wide-angle lens with seamless continuity between shots.

This shift is nothing short of pure genius, indicating that everything has changed and that the family’s life must now be seen through a new lens. The title, Waves, fits perfectly as the camera’s movements often replicate a wave: a motion effortlessly reflecting and imprinting itself the next movement — or in this case, shot.

The film is enhanced by a score featuring Tyler the Creator, A$AP Rocky, Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, and couple of Frank Ocean ballads that never fail to make your heart sink. The cinematography is reminiscent of Euphoria’s ability to showcase the journey of the characters through the finesse of the camera and colourful mise-en-scène neon mood lighting.

The second act begins when Tyler is sentenced to life in prison. The family attempts to interpret their loss as the camera swiftly switches back to wide-angle shots.

The film’s focus turns to Emily as she navigates high school as a racialized teenage girl. She encounters Luke, played by the A24 veteran Lucas Hedges, and viewers watch the pair fall in love. The couple both have complex pasts and soothe their pain in each other’s arms. Emily’s uplifting love story contrasts the first act and helps the viewer unwind from the panicked state elicited with Tyler’s story.

At the post-film discussion with the audience, Shults noted, “I’m trying to find the balance…  to get you closer to them in this emotionally immersive experience.” Ultimately, in the end, the family is broken, but the bonds of their love remain unbroken. As he eloquently said at the premiere, “Life doesn’t end at the worst moment, it keeps going. It’s about getting through the other side of it and healing.”

When you can’t make it to the drive-in, the sofa is a great place to spend a lazy summer evening

A perfect movie for capturing every summer vibe

When you can’t make it to the drive-in, the sofa is a great place to spend a lazy summer evening

Here’s a list of movies for all your summer watching needs.

For beach vibes: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Honourable mention: The Descendants

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is set in balmy Hawaii, amid palm trees and dreamy ocean waves. Between Kristen Bell in a pink bikini and Mila Kunis with a white tropical flower tucked behind her ear, this movie is sure to make you wish you could leave city life behind to join the characters in a warm haze of sand, cocktails, and bathing suits. Also, Paul Rudd as a surf instructor is officially my summer chillness guru.

For thriller vibes: Jaws

Honourable mention: I Know What You Did Last Summer

Famously featuring a great white shark devastating unwitting beachgoers, this movie is ideal for those of us who want to both get in the summer spirit and are in the mood for mystery and suspense. With its marvellously tense soundtrack mingled with a summer resort aesthetic, Jaws is a great way to add a surreal creepiness to an otherwise tranquil summer day.

For romance vibes: Call Me by Your Name

Honourable mention: (500) Days of Summer

Set in the small town of Crema in northern Italy, this movie is a delicious exploration of the ups and downs of summer love. Call Me by Your Name captures the salacious heat of summertime lust, the playfulness of a fast-paced friendship, and the excitement of pursuing someone forbidden. You can witness the blissful sensuality of falling in love against a technicolour backdrop of tall grasses and shaded ponds. It also isn’t a real summer romance film unless there’s a strange sex scene involving fruit, and Call Me by Your Name certainly delivers on that front.  

For innocent Disney vibes: Moana

Honourable mention: Lilo and Stitch

It’s an animated movie about a strong young woman embracing her passion for the ocean by defying the confining boundaries of her island — you can’t watch it without developing an unshakeable desire for adventure. Featuring a dazzling but deadly crab, a beautiful grass-covered goddess who finds her heart, and songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda at his finest — Moana inspires you to take the voyage across the ocean — whatever your own metaphorical ocean may be.

For horror vibes: It

Honourable mention: Friday the 13th

This coming-of-age movie about finding friendship during a time of adversity is often punctuated by characters groaning that it’s summer break, a time for relaxing and having fun, not fighting monsters. It is perfect for those of us who disagree and think the whole point of summer break is fighting monsters.   

For showbiz glam vibes: Almost Famous

Honourable mention: La La Land

If summer is the time when you repress all the biology facts you’ve been cramming in your brain and return to your childhood fantasies of living a rock-and-roll lifestyle, this is the movie for cultivating your delusions. Almost Famous is about a young hopeful journalist on the road with a bus full of washed-up rockstars and glamorous groupies — the summer road trip of your dreams.

For childhood nostalgia vibes: High School Musical 2

Honourable mention: The Parent Trap

This movie asks “what time is it?” for us to all yell back, in perfect unison, “SUMMERTIME!” High School Musical 2 has a song for every summer scenario: summer job doldrums, perfecting that fabulous poolside aesthetic, the inevitable breakup after a summer romance fizzles, angsty soul searching on the golf course, and, for some reason, a “pineapple princess” pining after a fish with a long, complicated Hawaiian name.

For ‘80s classics vibes: Dirty Dancing

Honourable mention: National Lampoon’s Vacation

With its iconic soundtrack and killer dance numbers, this movie will make you long for those days of family vacations. Except this time, instead of wasting your holiday sunbathing and begging your older sister to sneak you mojitos from the bar, you could be falling in love with the resort’s dance instructor to the tune of your favourite ‘80s pop songs.

For teenage revelry vibes: Meatballs

Honourable mention: American Pie 2

If summer makes you nostalgic for high school (shudder), then you probably spent your teenage years partying at your friend’s beach house, or drunkenly singing songs around a bonfire. Meatballs, however, will make you wish you had spent your summers as a camp counsellor — the main duties of which are apparently playing pranks and scoring chicks. This film will make you pine for the semi-innocence of those blissful teenaged summers.

For musical vibes: Mamma Mia

Honourable mention: Grease

Amanda Seyfried’s character is a makeup-free, beachy-haired goddess who always has a bathing suit on underneath her white summery blouse, in case she needs to frantically chase after a retreating boat. Spoiler: she does. She lives on a fictional Greek island called “Kalokairi” that is essentially a slice of heaven. The crystalline ocean and Mediterranean architecture of the island would also make me want to periodically burst into song. To me, the soundtrack to this movie is the soundtrack of summer.