It's been a week full of goodbyes for me as I wrap up my time at The Californian. For nearly three years, I've made Bakersfield my home and had the chance to do so many different jobs at the paper and meet so many wonderful people. It's been a privilege to start off my career here, and I'm excited to see what new opportunities lie at The Desert Sun in Palm Springs.
Even though it's closing time, there's still one last column to write.
It's officially been a year since I started Ema's Picks, and every week I've searched far and wide to find the best movies and TV shows for you to watch at home. It's been an absolute blast — who doesn't love getting paid to watch hours of entertainment?
Something I really haven't done is recommend content from the Ema Sasic vault — my own collection of favorites. Since this is my last column, I feel it's only right to leave you with my personal picks that will hopefully bring you as much entertainment and joy as they bring me.
A movie I keep going back to time after time is "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" from David Fincher, one of my favorite directors. It's different from some of his other work, which is likely why I've seen it more than 10 times at this point.
Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is a curious fellow. He was born in New Orleans under some strange circumstances: Rather than looking like a baby, he looks like an elderly man. Sure enough, our protagonist is a man aging in reserve — the older he gets in age, the younger he looks in appearance.
There are plenty of people Benjamin meets in life and several situations he finds himself in, but Daisy (Cate Blanchett) is the one person who always finds her way back into his life one way or another. He first meets her when she's a child and later he sees her grow into a world-class dancer. Even though they know one of them is aging forward while the other is aging in reverse and they understand the consequences, their bond and love continues to bring them together.
Whether I'm feeling sad, angry or anything in between, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" knows exactly how to put me in the best mood. Sure, it's a wacky tale, but Pitt and Blanchett tell it so beautifully that it becomes such a special love story in the end. I think this film has a perfect cast — joining the leads are Taraji P. Henson, Tilda Swinton, Mahershala Ali and so many others — who all add so much passion to their characters. It's no wonder it's in my vault!
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is available to stream on Hulu with a Cinemax add-on subscription or for rent on Amazon Prime Video.
I've mentioned plenty of times that I love psychological thrillers, and one that really hits it out of the park is "Black Swan" starring Natalie Portman. She was so fantastic in this film that the role earned her the best actress Oscar in 2011.
Portman stars as Nina, a ballerina who is extremely talented and dedicated to her art but is quite shy. The company is preparing for its opening production of "Swan Lake" for its new season, and artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is looking to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder). Nina is his first choice, but she has some competition from a new dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis).
The role of the Swan Queen requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan, who is innocent and graceful, and the Black Swan, who represents sensuality. Our innocent Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly, but she can't nail the Black Swan in any regard, and Lily is perfect for that role. Soon, however, Nina slowly starts getting in touch with her dark side, but she struggles to separate reality from fantasy when the darkness consumes her.
I love any movie that will make you question what you're seeing on screen, and "Black Swan" does it perfectly. Nina sees scratches and feathers appear on her body as well as weird sightings left and right, and you can't trust her or yourself when determining if it's all made up or really happening. Nina's decent into madness is brilliantly portrayed by Portman, and it's no wonder she won the Oscar that year.
"Black Swan" is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
It's been a blast keeping you all entertained through this column and having you share your viewing suggestions. If you have a movie or TV show that people should check out, keep sending your recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy watching!