Beauty Is In The Details: A Watchlist

"Details in a film can be found everywhere, though often in props, wardrobe, tint or tone. "

I am a true believer that a director’s talent boils down to the details of her films. As viewers, we may not notice all the tiny details, but their accumulation is often what makes the experience of the film special and memorable. And to many film buffs and critics like myself, it’s these details that create a beautiful movie.

Films with extreme attention to particulars are my favorite because they can be watched again and again. In the second screening, I locate more details, capable of noting them now that I am no longer solely invested in the characters or plot, focusing instead on the larger perspective of the world that the film portrays. Those details are the hidden puzzle pieces into the director’s world. Some think paying attention to details in films develop critical thinking skills. I strongly agree.

It’s a bit like a scavenger hunt. Finding an item in a film that alludes to another film, series, or universe is a hunt that garners cult followings. Think: Star Wars, Fight Club, anything by Alfred Hitchcock—films that people don’t just watch, but watch closely, annually, and obsessively. Part of their endurance through the ages is all the secret features hidden in them. These features, dubbed “easter eggs,” prompt fans to watch their favorite series over and over again for either bragging rights or in hopes of finding a secret message hidden inside. The easter egg trend began in 1979 when game designer, Warren Robinett, actually did hide a secret message in a video game called, “Adventure,” because he was not credited for working on the game. His secret message, “Created by Warren Robinett,” is heralded as the very first easter egg.

Collecting easter eggs or simply finding new details to love about a film takes the watching experience to the next level. My favorite part about watching purposeful films is when the movie’s over, and in the face of a blank screen, I start to connect the dots. Sometimes I even catch something someone else didn’t, landing me at that very gratifying “A HA” moment, shutting down any haters with my distinct eye for the filmmaker's talent.

Details in a film can be found everywhere, though often in props, wardrobe, tint or tone. More times than not, they are shown to you at the beginning of the film or after a character’s transformation. Commonly the character’s world is built with the entire vision of the film in mind. Although you are experiencing the film as one final polished production, the film is able to flow seamlessly because it’s a montage of all these small details. In these little things, the entire film’s concept is reflected. Catching a new detail can change your entire perspective. It can make a film you’ve already seen ten times feel anew. In 2021, when every day is the same, who wouldn’t want a feeling like that?

Here is a list of films I love to rewatch and pay closer attention to all streaming on HBO Max:

V for Vendetta, directed by James McTeigue: Written by The Wachowskis, this is a wildly relevant film that stays with you past its screening. While it is incredibly stunning, it is so carefully crafted with a “V” in every scene. Don’t blink or you’ll miss them.

Bottle Rocket, directed by Wes Anderson: I could not write a piece about films and details without including Wes Anderson. Often referred to a Direct-Director, Wes Anderson’s attention to detail is unmatched. Everything on screen is purposeful. I chose Bottle Rocket not only because it features the brilliant Lumi Cavazos, but it also is the first film in Anderson’s career, aka the beginning of his aesthetic and a love letter to Texas. Truly, if you want to dive into details in film, watch anything by Wes Anderson. There are even weddings and wallpapers inspired by his films.

Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins: Moonlight is perfect. If you haven’t seen it, treat yourself now. The movie was shot in three acts, each act is styled to look as though it was shot in different film stock. “Little” resembles Fuji film stock; the second act, Agfa film; and the third is in the tones of Kodak film, which change as the character himself transforms. It’s truly magical.

In The Mood for Love, directed by Wong Kar-wai: A film composed by tiny mesmerizing details where very little happens on the surface, but I promise you, you will not look away from this captivating, moving, flawless film.

The Holy Mountain, directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky: For a film filled with symbolism and mysticism, turn to Jodorowsky, a multi-hyphenate. Everything he does has meaning. A true believer in everything being purposeful and deliberate The Holy Mountain is a sort of visual take on The Alchemist, conceptualizing the meaning of being.

Meet the Family

Mariana Da Silva is a Brazilian Mexican writer/actress who lives in Los Angeles. She is the founder of El Cine, a Latin Film Organization that promotes film education and charitable giving. Mariana has appeared on Telenovelas and TV series, her credits include El Rostro De Analia, Las Dos Caras de Ana and NCIS. Mariana's short films have appeared at festivals world wide.

Mariana is right handed.