Five films for five different moods you might experience as a Stanford student

When CS homework is stressing you out // Harold and Maude

THE STORY OF a young man obsessed with death, who falls in love with an eighty-year old woman obsessed with life, Harold and Maude makes the genre of “uplifting tragedy” seem possible. Unafraid of addressing the meaning of life, the film falls quickly into eschewing society in praise of personal expression. However, perhaps a bit too playful in plot-line to be truly anti-establishment, the emotional muscle of the film undeniably comes from Cat Stevens’s soundtrack – the best since Simon and Garfunkel’s song collection for The Graduate. Tunes like “If You Want to Sing Out” and “Don’t Be Shy” transform Harold’s bell-bottoms and Maude’s banjo from blatant countercultural remnants of the previous decade to a truly alluring invitation to drop whatever is due tomorrow and prance around the daisy fields by the characters’ sides, if only for an hour and thirty-seven minutes. Released in 1972. 

Maude steals a car in order to transplant a dying tree into some forest soil. She doesn't believe in licenses. 

Feeling foodie? // Eat Drink Man Woman

THE ELABORATE dinners that retired master Chef Chu cooks for his three daughters are just about the only thing that brings the Taiwanese family together every Sunday night. As Chu ladles out the ginger soup, he ladles out the true comedy of the film, an Allen-esque eruption of family drama, which makes quite a charming pair for the peking duck. However, Eat Drink Man Woman quickly transcends what is often simply cute, foodie entertainment. Ethical and sexual conflicts fly as Chu hopelessly attempts to follow the wildly different emotional lives of his daughters, which for him, proves to be far more difficult than fileting a fish will ever be, but luckily for the viewer, just as delicious. Released in 1994. 

Chef Chu prepares Sunday's dinner in the opening scenes of  Eat Drink Man Woman. 

Because you’re craving a good mind-f**k // Exit Through the Gift Shop

IF YOU ARE familiar with the work of Banksy, you should expect that his documentary about street artists is as much a cultural hoax as the nature of street art itself – performed humorously, deceptively, and in the dead of night, to the turned backs of the police and the proprietors. Bansky’s ability to master such artistic trickery in film form is bizarre and perplexing. But just as his greatest murals are illusions at heart (a child ballooning herself over the wall that divides Israel and Palestine, for example), so Exit Through the Gift Shop leaves it up to the viewer to decide what’s real and what’s not. Keep in mind that the artist is not after the meaning of art like most documentarians, but whether “art” is too flimsy to mean anything at all.  Released 2010 and watchable instantly on Netflix.

 Banksy's  Balloon Girl , 2003. 

Banksy's Balloon Girl, 2003. 

When you need some alone-time // The Lunchbox

MUMBAI'S DABBAWALAS never fail to transport thousands of hot lunchboxes from the hands of India’s housewives to the desks of the corresponding husbands by noontime. Not until the most beautiful of lunch boxes -- prepared by Ila, the lonely housewife hoping to add some spice back into her marriage through her cooking -- does the system make a mistake, setting up the sweet and simple plotline of The Lunchbox. As they exchange notes through the mis-delivered lunchbox, Ila and the grouchy widower, Saajan, become the kind of friends they both need -- ones that listen. Indeed, perhaps the true merit of the film falls under the umbrella statement (all melodrama excused by the truth of the character’s words), “You forget things if you have no one to tell them to.” Unlike most food movies, The Lunchbox is great to watch when you are lonesome – just make sure you’re not hungry. Recently released in theaters but available to rent on iTunes and On-Demand.

The Lunchbox, official trailer. 

Something “quick” (but awesome) // High Maintenance

IT SEEMS THAT web-series have found their way into today’s zeitgeist as the new form of film entertainment. If you are new to the world of online indie television, first of all, welcome. You are in for plenty of nights that begin by watching a “quick episode” for a study break, but only quickly roll into marathons of Ben Stiller’s Burning Love or perhaps Stanford’s own Higher Education.

When you’ve warmed up to the world of web-series, do yourself the favor of watching – in all of its brilliance – the New York City based High Maintenance. Created by Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld (the Emmy-winning casting director of 30 Rock), the show follows a pot dealer, referred to only as “The Guy,” as he delivers weed to his New Yorker clientele. Whether comic or sentimental, all episodes possess the rare and intricate taste for portraying true human existence as one might find it in today’s New York City neighborhoods. As director Ben Sinclair describes, they are “selling characters, not cannabis.” Rest assured, the show will leave you in such a mood that you would think they were selling both.

All thirteen episodes can be found here at Vimeo. Or, watch some of PULSE’s personal favorites below: