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The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Cinema with Sam: Sam’s winter break favorites

“Maestro” follows the life and career of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein. (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

I hope everyone had a relaxing break, an enjoyable holiday and got to watch some amazing movies. I surely did and I will share the best movies (and one television show) I saw this break.


Directed, starring and co-written by Bradley Cooper, “Maestro” (2023) follows the life and career of American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. The film also stars Carry Mulligan as Felicia, Leonard’s wife.

Cooper masterfully directed each scene, showing us the hardships and struggles in the relationship between Leonard and Felicia and how this affects his music. Cooper’s directorial debut, “A Star is Born” (2018), was very well done, and “Maestro” shows me that Cooper can be one the best directors working today and possibly is already in the conversation.

Pair all this with striking and beautiful cinematography, expert editing with perfect timing and a phenomenal score composed of Bernstein’s music and it is clear why “Maestro” quickly became and still is my favorite movie I saw in 2023.  

“The Boy and the Heron”

As famed director Hayao Miyazaki’s supposed final film, “The Boy and the Heron” (2023) is a gorgeous and touching story of a young boy overcoming guilt in imaginative ways. Taking place in World War II-era Japan, the film follows young Mahito as he and his father move to the remote countryside after his mother’s tragic death all while escaping the war. Mahito soon discovers a greater world beyond his own — one that is deeply connected to his deceased mother.

The magnificent and elegant style of hand-drawn Japanese animation aids the already great storytelling Miyazaki is known for, and it seems “The Boy and the Heron” is the crowning achievement of such work. I saw both the Japanese and English voice casts, with the English including the likes of Florence Pugh, Robert Pattinson and Christian Bale. Both versions’ actors were excellent. 

“Anatomy of a Fall”

Directed by Justine Triet and starring Sandra Hüller and Milo Machado Graner, “Anatomy of a Fall” (2023) follows Hüller’s character Sandra who is accused of murdering her husband, and their blind son Daniel, played by Graner, who is one of the primary witnesses. This film has some of the finest acting I’ve seen in a film in a long time, not just from Hüller and Graner but from the entire cast.

I do not want to give away much more detail, for this film has many twists and turns that induce physical reactions that should not be spoiled. I watched this on a plane and I feel bad for the random people on either side of me who had to deal with my constant audible reactions. 


Next up is Kenneth Branagh’s 2021 film “Belfast,” starring Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill, Dame Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds.

The film follows young Buddy Hill and his family in the 1960s as they navigate the religious war, better known as the Troubles, taking place. A semi-autobiography about Branagh’s life, the film shows the struggles of growing up during a time of major conflict and how one’s community and family are affected by said conflict. Jude Hill’s performance as Buddy will have your heart melting.

“Blue Eye Samurai”

Only on Netflix, “Blue Eye Samurai” (2023) is an adult-animated television series that takes place in Edo-era Japan, roughly in the middle of the 1600s. The show follows Samurai Mizu, hell-bent on getting revenge against the four men who ruined their life.

With gorgeous hand-drawn animation that takes inspiration from both anime and traditional Western animation, “Blue Eye Samurai” stands on its own with a compelling story with multiple changing character arcs, constant plot twists that actually work and some truly incredible action that will have your jaw on the floor. 

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About the Contributor
Sam Cohen, Movie Columnist
Sam Cohen (he/him/his) is a junior majoring in Film and Media Studies. He won the Special Grand Jury Prize for his Comedy short film “The Gum Run” at the 2019 Montclair Film Festival Emerging Filmmakers Competition. Sam writes weekly reviews of recent TV Shows and Movies while occasionally reviewing older, forgotten classics. When not reviewing, discussing, or watching films, Sam is also a part of many extracurriculars on campus, including being a co-captain of the Ultimate Frisbee team, a member of the Chi Phi Fraternity, and an officer of the Film Society.

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