2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is a science-fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick about a voyage to Jupiter with the sentient computer HAL after the discovery of a mysterious black monolith affecting human evolution.
What Karthik says: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is a profound and ambitious science-fiction film about the journey of mankind from the chaotic period of prehistoric hominids to the technologically advanced era of space travel. Humanity sets off on a quest to Jupiter after discovering a mysterious monolith buried beneath the Lunar Surface.
The film is masterfully directed by Stanley Kubrick, who with this film established himself as one of the greatest filmmakers of our time. It is quite unbelievable that this extraordinary level of visual quality was achieved in 1968. It is a poetic and philosophical journey to the infinite and beyond, the kind of film that really creates a deep level of involvement with the audience.
Dealing with themes of existentialism, human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence and extraterrestrial life, the film holds up a mirror to the audience and creates space for interpretations, which is what beautiful art is supposed to do. It is truly one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a monolith in the world of cinema.
You might like this if you like: Films by Stanley Kubrick, Solaris (1972), Blade Runner (1982), Moon (2009), Interstellar (2014), Alien (1979), Ex Machina (2014).
Seconds (1966) is a thriller film by John Frankenheimer about an unhappy middle-aged banker who agrees to a procedure that will fake his death and give him a completely new look and identity - one that comes with its own price.
What Karthik says: Seconds (1966) is an unsettling film about a middle-aged man experiencing a mid-life crisis, who has been given an opportunity to completely start his life over with a new identity. This is a beautifully crafted cathartic film about individual emptiness, dissatisfaction and the tragic results of life lived without meaning or values. The film can feel like a lucid nightmare and all the stylistic elements contribute to the sinister and disorienting atmosphere. The main character is played by Rock Hudson who brilliantly embodies a paranoid, distressed man awakening to an unalterable reality. No matter who many skins you wear, you can’t escape who you are on the inside; an omen of our society today. This is a film that’s overlooked by many, but it is a classic in my opinion; a masterpiece by John Frankenheimer.
You might like this if you like: The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), The Trial (1962), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945).
HAND. CANNOT. ERASE. (2015) by STEVEN WILSON
Hand. Cannot. Erase. is the fourth solo studio album by Steven Wilson. The album is written from a female perspective, and the concept and story are inspired by the case of Joyce Carol Vincent, where a woman living in a large city dies in her apartment and no one misses her for over three years, despite her having family and friends.
What Karthik says: Hand. Cannot. Erase. is a conceptual album inspired by the story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a woman who died in her apartment without being found by anyone for over three years. This album is an undeniably beautiful musical equivalent of a person’s diary laid out through numerous moments of melancholic beauty. The narrative touches upon what it is like to live in a metropolis and how easy it is to disappear in the 21st century surrounded by technology, with most of us facing urban alienation and detachment. This is a work of art and an incredible experience one shouldn’t miss out on. Hand. Cannot. Erase. is without a doubt, a masterpiece and one of the greatest albums of the 21st century. Period.
You might like this if you like: Music by Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Rush, Boards of Canada and David Bowie.
HUMAN, ALL TOO HUMAN (1878) by FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
Human, All Too Human is a book by 19th-Century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche; written after Nietzsche had ended his friendship with Richard Wagner and had been forced to leave academic life through ill health. Human, All Too Human can be read as a monument to his personal crisis. Here he sets out his unsettling views in a series of 638 stunning aphorisms - assessing subjects ranging from art to arrogance, boredom to passion, science to vanity and women to youth.
What Karthik says: Human, All Too Human is a series of witty, eloquent and piercingly honest aphorisms on morality, art, artistry, culture, religion, society and individuality. It is an insightful journey into the brilliant mind of Nietzsche who exposes the errors in our perception of ourselves and the world we live in, and calls for an embrace of science and reality with intellectual courage and a desperate need for change and unconventional wisdom. A great work of art stands the test of time; Human, All Too Human is a brilliant example of that.
You might like this if you like: Other work by Friedrich Nietzsche, Being and Time by Martin Heidegger, The World as Will and Representation by Arthur Schopenhauer, Phenomenology of Perception by Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
ABSTRACT - THE ART OF DESIGN (2017- )
Abstract: The Art of Design is a Netflix original documentary series by Scott Dadich, highlighting artists in the field of design. It is an insightful look beyond blueprints and computers into the art and science of design, showcasing great designers from every discipline whose work shapes our world.
The first season profiled illustrator Christoph Niemann, Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield, stage designer Es Devlin, architect Bjarke Ingels, automotive designer Ralph Gilles, graphic designer Paula Scher, photographer Platon, and interior designer Ilse Crawford.
What Karthik says: Abstract: The Art of Design is a highly refreshing take on artists in their realm, their infectious love and passion for their work, their perspective, their design sensibilities and how they go about from a blank sheet of paper to realized creation. The series will surely inspire any aspiring artists out there and give them new appreciation for the creative process.
You might like this if you like: Jodorowsky's Dune, Indie Game: The Movie, The Director Series by Cameron Beyl.
Samsara is a documentary film by Ron Fricke that explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of man’s spirituality and the human experience. Through powerful images, the film illuminates the links between humanity and the rest of nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet.
What Karthik says: Samsara is a visually stunning and intellectually captivating portrait of the world. The film chronicles the distinct cultures and way of life across twenty-five countries. It is a depressingly accurate and haunting reflection of the grim side of humanity: the shallow materialism, the passive herd behavior, cruelty against other life. This intellectual montage is the poetic equivalent of taking a step back and studying humanity as a whole. It makes you contemplate the world around you and that is its greatest achievement.
This tremendously powerful film is without any dialogue or narration but the screams can be heard from behind the exceptionally beautiful imagery. It is the cinematic experience that you need to gift yourself.
You might like this if you like: Baraka, Chronos, Koyaanisqatsi, Man with a Movie Camera, Workingman's Death.
EXCAVATION (2013) by THE HAXAN CLOAK
Excavation is an album by The Haxan Cloak (Bobby Krlic), a British musician and producer known for dark, spooky, carefully constructed, textured and atmospheric music, with heavy bass and elements of drone metal.
What Karthik says: Excavation is a dark and sinister album; a completely terrifying, sublime and visceral musical plunge into the depths of darkness. The Soundscapes created by Bobby Krlic, the mastermind behind The Haxan Cloak are incredibly intense, raw and undeniably intriguing. This is a meticulously crafted album that will engulf you in fear, suspense, tension and a sense of impending doom.
This is a challenging record, a hauntingly beautiful one. Go ahead, colour your solitude, puppeteer your nightmares with this masterpiece.
Favourite Track(s): Miste, The Mirror Reflecting (Part 2), Dieu, The Drop.
You might like this if you like: Bass Communion, Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails, Sunn O))), Kreng, Bohren & der Club of Gore.
NAUTICAL OPERATOR (2014) by NAUTICAL OPERATOR
Nautical Operator is the debut album by Peter Crofton (Nautical Operator), a solo Rock band with strong Progressive Rock, Electronic and Acoustic Rock influences.
What Karthik says: Nautical Operator is a beautiful, dreamy album with sonically cohesive string and electronic elements that will transport the listener to a world of melancholia and nostalgia. The soaring, atmospheric vocalizations throughout the album, especially on the tracks ‘Nautical Operator’ and ‘Snow’ are absolutely beautiful.
Needless to say, it is a beautiful work of art; Peter Crofton’s first album might be the start of something beautiful.
Favourite Track(s): The Sifter, Nautical Operator, Snow.
You might like this if you like: Porcupine Tree, Beck, Steven Wilson, The Pineapple Thief, Boards of Canada, Engineers.
SHADOW TACTICS: BLADES OF THE SHOGUN (2016)
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a hardcore tactical stealth game set in Japan around the Edo period. A new Shogun seizes power over Japan and enforces nationwide peace. In his battle against conspiracy and rebellion, he recruits five specialists with extraordinary skills for assassination, sabotage and espionage.
What Karthik Says: Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a rightful heir to the Commandos and Desperados series. The developers at Mimimi Productions need to be wholeheartedly thanked for their revitalizing effort on creating such a beautiful, challenging and clever game. It is an excellent stealth game with five characters that light up the journey across 17th-Century Japan in intrepid style. The well-designed levels feel massive and full of life, giving players innumerable ways to conquer a mission. The mission badges add incentive for the player to try uncommon ways to accomplish objectives. The relatable and versatile characters are beautifully designed and their skills coupled with the incredible shadow mode adds depth to player approach. It is an incredibly satisfying game; one that will tempt you to achieve mastery.
You might like this if you like: Commandos series, Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive.
WE BECOME WHAT WE BEHOLD (2016)
We Become What We Behold is a video game by Nicky Case about news cycles, vicious cycles and infinite cycles.
What Karthik Says: We Become What We Behold is a superb video game about the operation and impact of the media. The game puts you in the eyes of a photographer, instructed to capture moments of interest. The game showcases the impact of every player action and it railroads the characters within the world towards a viewpoint. What we see here is a terrifyingly accurate representation of the media and its impact on the viewers. This vicious cycle, like a snake eating its own tail, eventually takes a dark and shocking turn that is sure to leave you speechless. The message is very clear and utterly powerful.
You might like this if you like: Papers Please, The Binding of Isaac.
BROTHERS: A TALE OF TWO SONS (2013)
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a video game from visionary Swedish Film Director, Josef Fares and top-tier developer Starbreeze Studios. It is about two brothers, desperate to cure their ailing father, who embark on a journey to find and bring back the "Water of Life" as they come to rely on one another to survive.
What Karthik Says: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is an elegant, simple and superbly crafted video game with an exquisitely told story set in an utterly beautiful world. It is a beautifully directed and concise experience with enormous substance, where every little detail is well thought out; the gameplay, the puzzles, the environments, the characters, the interactions and the story. Nothing feels out of place; the gameplay elements feel natural and make sense within the world.
The game easily pulls you into the experience and it’s very hard not to feel deeply touched by the well-written and executed story. All in-game dialogue is spoken in a fictional language, which creates space for the player to make attempts to understand and empathize with the characters from their gestures and expressions. The creators truly understand what it means to communicate meaning through interaction. Brothers – A Tale of Two sons is a work of art, a masterpiece and a complete triumph.
You might like this if you like: Journey, ABZÛ, Firewatch, Fable, Ico and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.
PATHS OF HATE (2010)
Paths of Hate is a short film directed by Damian Nenow about the demons that slumber deep in the human soul and have the power to push people into the abyss of blind hate, fury and rage.
What Karthik Says: Paths of Hate is a visually stunning short film about the dark side of human behavior and how it can potentially destroy us from within. The presentation, execution of the concept and the animation work are utterly brilliant. The film is action-packed with exhilarating sequences, but it is the slow and mellow moments that steal the show. There’s so much emotion conveyed without any dialogue whatsoever. Paths of Hate is an outstanding short film and a fine example of great visual storytelling and presentation.
You might like this if you like: XIII, Waltz with Bashir, A Scanner Darkly, Highly-stylized / Comic-Book Visual Art.
STRANGER THINGS (2016-)
Stranger Things is a supernatural science fiction television series created by the Duffer Brothers. Set in the 1980s Indiana, a young boy named Will disappears into thin air and the search for him leads his mother, a police chief, and his friends to confront terrifying forces in order to get him back.
What Karthik Says: Stranger Things is a perfectly executed Sci-Fi series about the mysterious disappearance of a young boy in a small town in the 80s. I’ve always believed that it’s the synthesis of the ingredients that make the dish, and not the ingredients themselves; and Stranger Things is the epitome of that notion. Every element of the show feels like it belongs together to form a cohesive whole; the excellent music, the beautiful cinematography, the authentic characters, the well-structured story. Upon reaching the show’s conclusion, I nodded in total admiration and said to myself “That’s how it’s done”.
You might like this if you like: Super 8, Alien, E.T., X-Files, The Goonies and the work of Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, David Cronenberg and John Carpenter.
TAKE SHELTER (2011)
Take Shelter is a Drama/Thriller film directed by Jeff Nichols about a young husband and father whose family's happiness is at stake when he begins to have nightmares which gradually turn into hallucinations. He questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.
What Karthik Says: Masterful filmmaking from Jeff Nichols in creating a haunting sense of dread throughout the film that slowly unravels the subconscious of a man descending into madness. It is beautifully directed, featuring very strong acting performances by Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. It is a fascinating character study that presents the external manifestations of internal conflict. The film doesn't reveal too much, keeping you wondering at every turn, eventually rewarding you with a beautiful and well-crafted ending.
You might like this if you like: The Machinist, Shutter Island, The Game, Inception
THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA (2013)
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a Japanese animated fantasy drama film based on a hopeful and tragic folk tale about a tiny girl who was found inside a shining stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter and his wife, who grows rapidly into an exquisite young lady. The mysterious young princess enthralls all who encounter her - but ultimately she must confront her fate, the punishment for her crime. The film is produced by Studio Ghibli, co-written and directed by Isao Takahata, who also directed the masterpieces, Grave of the Fireflies and Only Yesterday.
What Karthik Says: A truly beautiful piece of work that exudes lyricism in every single visually stunning scene. The powerful and inspiring Princess Kaguya who stays true to herself in spite of the shallow temptations that are presented to her, will really resonate with the audience. The film slowly builds up to an absolutely phenomenal third act that is emotionally gripping and heartbreaking.
I recommend that you watch the original Japanese version with subtitles in the language that you are familiar with.
You might like this if you like: Studio Ghibli Films and/or the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
BLACK MIRROR (2011 - )
Black Mirror is a British television Sci-Fi anthology series created by Charlie Brooker that features speculative fiction with dark and sometimes satirical themes that examine modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies.
What Karthik Says: It's a phenomenal thought-provoking show that takes a very dark, deep and inward look at the worst of human nature actuated by technology in the future. The show’s disturbing and terrifying tales will make you question your everyday behavior and interactions. It shows the dark and unsettling possibilities of how technology could imprison the humanity in us.
The episodes may be watched in any order, as they are all completely independent of one another. "The Entire History of You" and "Be Right Back" are my personal favorite episodes.
You might like this if you like: The Twilight Zone
THE IRON SOUL OF NOTHING (2011) by SUNN O))) MEETS NURSE WITH WOUND
The Iron Soul of Nothing is an album by Sunn O))) (pronounced sun), an American drone metal band known for the synthesis of diverse genres including drone, ambient and extreme noise.
What Karthik says: The Iron Soul of Nothing is a vast intense, bizarre, nightmarish sonic journey with drone elements from Sunn O))) complemented with the concrete weirdness of Nurse With Wound's Steven Stapleton who is known for being a pioneer in the dark ambient industrial music scene. It is sonically very thick and cloudy with a textural quality that is both unnerving and intoxicating; heard prominently on the track 'Ash on the Trees' which is my personal favorite from the album.
Their music requires context and a level of investment from the listener as it's not an easy listen. I envision their music as background scores for dark horror, thriller, occult cinema due to their ability to create monolithic soundscapes and eerie atmospheres.
You might like this if you like: Scott Walker, Swans, Throbbing Gristle, Kreng, Nine Inch Nails and David Lynch.