Screen Staff Selects: Favorite film worlds

Dec. 7, 2023, 8:19 p.m.

During finals week, it is easy to feel like you don’t want to be “here.” If some magic or technology existed that would allow you to live in a universe from one of your favorite TV shows or movies, where would you want to live? Screen beat writers tell us about some of their favorite alternate realities.

“Community” (2009-2014) — Cate Burtner

During moments of loneliness or FOMO, haven’t we all wished we could be a little closer to our communities? And how awesome would it be if we did this through epic campus-wide paintball matches that are magically cleaned up the next day, constant quippy remarks with our best friends and “six seasons and a movie” of hilarious, meta antics? I think it would be pretty special, and it’s exactly how I feel watching “Community.”

The show follows eight friends from many walks of life through their time at Greendale Community College. They start as a Spanish class study group, but become so much more. These are the types of friendships that are irreplaceable in life and on the screen. “Community” is a hilarious, genuine and smart show that is worth a watch and a re-watch.

I would love to be a live studio audience member for the show-within-a-show “Troy and Abed in the Mooorn-ing,” roll my eyes at how Brita is the worst, try out Dean Pelton’s epic outdated VR set or listen to one of Jeff Winger’s famous motivational speeches.

“Scandal” (2012-2018) — Blyss Cleveland

Shonda Rhimes is the doyenne of engrossing dramas, but I don’t have the gravitas or lip strength to live in Shondaland and deliver those long, declamatory monologues. However, I need to visit the “Scandal” universe to befriend protagonist Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), borrow her sensational coats and give her a stern talking-to about her life.

First, we would chat about the importance of finding more suitable love interests and avoiding married men, special agents sent to monitor her and disrespectful men in general. Second, we’d cover the importance of setting boundaries with her parents and discuss the feasibility of going no-contact with her dad. Lastly, I’d advise her to wrap her hair at night (or at least invest in a silk pillowcase!) and diversify her diet — popcorn and wine make a fine dinner sometimes, but she has to eat a green vegetable a few times a week.

The show would still be messy because Olivia is committed to making disastrous choices, but if I helped her with the big issues, it’d make rewatching the show a lot more bearable.

“The Amazing World of Gumball” (2011-Present) –  Emma Kexin Wang

Recently, I’ve been averaging around an hour of “Gumball” a day, dreading the all-too-imminent future where I would run out of episodes. Its fictional world of Elmore is absurd and laughable in the best way. The series follows the misadventures of Gumball Watterson (a blue cat) and Darwin Watterson, his orange pet fish who grew legs to become his best friend — a new little mermaid, if you will. The large cast of supporting characters includes a boring banana, a peanut, a cloud and more.

In one episode, Gumball and Darwin accidentally clone an army of their friend, who is a piece of toast. In another, Gumball’s childish father splits the fabric of the universe when he gets a job. All the previously ignored consequences of the Wattersons’ reckless actions pile up into the finale of the second season. 

What makes the world of “Gumball” appealing isn’t solely confined to its extreme ridiculousness; rather, that of the undercurrent of realist issues guised under its jokes; the moral implications of artificially bringing “life” into the world; the trial that a family faces when there is a major life change and finally, its meta commentary on the darker side of this seemingly amazing world. 

“Her” (2013) — Olena V. Bogdan 

Whenever I watch “Her” by Spike Jonze, I feel a strange, deep connection with the protagonist, Theodore Twombly, portrayed by actor Joaquin Phoenix. Theodore is a sensitive and introspective man living in a future version of Los Angeles. He works as a professional letter writer, crafting deeply personal client correspondences.

His career alone suggests a poetic soul who can find the right words for the most indescribable emotions. I would love to discuss with him the complexities of the human condition and the evolving nature of love and companionship in the modern world. I also believe he would be a profoundly understanding friend to share my happy and sad moments. 

Additionally, the world Spike Jonze created is characterized by high-rise buildings with large windows, wide open spaces and a warm, pastel-leaning color palette. It is a perfect place to be melancholic and lonely. I imagine myself walking down the beach and contemplating people while listening to “Song on the Beach” by Arcade Fire. 

“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (2023) — Anthony Martinez Rosales

Yes, I know this is not the “best” Indiana Jones movie, but it is the only one that I’ve seen in theaters. The movie-watching experience was impeccable; I genuinely wished that I was there helping Indiana Jones with John Williams’ score blasting at full volume in the background. This film specifically had some stunning visuals that were beautiful to see on the big screen, along with quippy banter and Harrison Ford reprising his role.

In general, the Indiana Jones movies show him as a charismatic archaeologist, who finds himself in adventures and is always intelligent enough to get himself out of trouble. I would simply love to follow him on one of his adventures — whether this means tip-toeing through booby traps or escaping poison darts. A part of me just itches to be able to go on an adventure with Indiana Jones while sporting his iconic Bullwhip, Fedora, leather jacket, khakis and the map leading us to the location of the long lost archaeological artifact. I strangely want to find myself in a pit of snakes, running for my life from a giant boulder and riding off into the sunset like he does in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989).

“Friends” (1994-2004) — Elena Vasilache

When you’ve had a tough day at school or work, it’s nice to come home to some friends. Or at least the show “Friends.”  If I could magically be teleported to a universe where this sitcom is reality and be friends with Joey, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, Rachel and Ross, I’d jump at the chance. (Well, maybe not Ross. He was the one annoying character in the show. But the rest of the gang were terrific.)

I’d learn to shop with Rachel, cook with Monica and listen to Phoebe sing one of her weird songs. Admittedly, I worry that my inclusion in the group as the fourth girl would throw off the balanced dynamics of the group. 

And if we dive deeper into the rabbit hole, I wonder if my presence — knowing them as well as I do and knowing what they’ll do in almost any circumstance — would ruin a good thing.  Would I stop Rachel from falling in love with Ross? Would I help Monica and Chandler get together sooner? What if these folk aren’t as great when real-life “Friends” doesn’t have a laugh track? And New York isn’t my number one choice for a place to live. Perhaps it’s better to leave the show where it belongs, on-screen and in my memories. They’ll have a place in my heart and I’d hate to ruin that with a do-over.

“Avatar” (2009) — Lauren Boles

I would easily choose to live in Pandora, the mythical world in James Cameron’s “Avatar.” I’d be immersed in the lush luminous forests, floating mountains and fascinating wildlife. In this universe, my motion sickness would not exist, so I’d experience the exhilaration of riding a Banshee after connecting my neural link with this magnificent creature. On this rite of passage for young Na’vi hunters, I’d soar through the floating mountains and take in the breathtaking aerial view of Pandora.

I feel drawn to Neytiri, the skilled, female Na’vi warrior. I’d like for her and me to connect our queues, the long braids of neural tendrils that would let us mentally communicate our memories, emotions and sensory input within a few seconds. This would allow our souls to become connected and solidify our relationship as best friends. We’d venture into the bioluminescent forest together and observe the flora and fauna coming alive with vibrant colors. We’d stumble upon the Tree of Souls, the willow tree with glowing, purple tendrils and an extensive root system. I’d connect my tendril to the Tree of Souls and undergo a profound spiritual and life-changing experience.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

Emma Wang '24 is a writer for the Arts & Life section. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.Olena Bogdan is a predoctoral research fellow in finance at Stanford GSB. If you have questions or ideas for an article, please contact her at [email protected]Anthony Martinez Rosales is the vol. 265 Screen desk editor.Elena Vasilache serves as a Sport Desk Editor for Vol. 264

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