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Verge Favorites: Amar Toor

The Verge staffers aren't just people who love technology. They're people who love stuff. We spend as much time talking and thinking about our favorite books, music, and movies as we do debating the best smartphone to buy or what point-and-shoot has the tightest macro. We thought it would make sense to share our latest obsessions with Verge readers, and we hope you're encouraged to share your favorites with us. Thus a long, healthy debate will ensue where we all end up with new things to read, listen to, or try on.

The Up Series

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I’d heard about these films for years before I finally watched them a few months ago, and I’m really glad I did, because it was probably the most impactful thing I’ve ever seen. Spanning more than five decades, Michael Apted’s Up Series follows the lives of 14 British children from the age of seven onward. It all began as something of a social experiment — a short, made-for-TV glimpse at how social class influences a child’s outlook — but over time, the films became more intimate in scope, following their subjects in seven-year intervals through adolescence, adulthood, and, now, middle age (the latest installment, 56 Up, came out earlier this year). Their stories aren’t heroic or, by most measures, even extraordinary, but that’s what makes them so endearing. Through a series of interviews, Apted’s subjects discuss their lives in often painfully candid terms, touching upon the insecurities, regrets, and hopes they all encounter as they get older. And although they hail from drastically different backgrounds — some orphans, others aristocrats — there’s a universality to their struggles and aspirations. The Up Series may not be a comprehensive representation of the human condition, but it’s probably the most profound approximation I’ve seen.

The Kingdom

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Long before he began doing tortuous things to Bjork and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lars von Trier created a supremely bizarre mini-series for Danish TV. Released in 1994, The Kingdom revolves around a haunted hospital in Copenhagen and the maniacal doctors, patients, and spirits within its walls. The series is firmly rooted in traditions of melodrama kitsch, though you can never really tell whether von Trier is going for gasps or laughs. It’s like a darker, sepia-filtered version of Twin Peaks, only with more confusion and cooler accents. The pilot episode is especially great because it ends with a strange, and slightly combative speech from a tuxedo-clad von Trier.

La Guerre est Declaree

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On paper, La Guerre est Declaree ("Declaration of War") seems like the most depressing film ever, but in truth, it's anything but. Taking her stylistic cues from the likes of François Truffaut and Agnes Varda, director Valerie Donzelli weaves together the visually bold, sometimes schizophrenic tale of Romeo and Juliette, two hip-and-pretty Parisians who "declare war" on their lives after their baby is diagnosed with a brain tumor. The film definitely has its dark moments, but they’re always countered with ebullience, as Romeo and Juliette search for glimmers of joy and humor within the grimmest of circumstances. This movie caused a mini-sensation when it came out in France last year, largely because of its incredible backstory; Donzelli and Jeremy Elkiam, the film’s stars and screenwriters, based the script on their own experience as young parents to an ill child.

Com Truise — In Decay

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When I was living in LA this summer, this album was the perfect accompaniment to my aimless bike rides around Venice. I didn’t expect it to survive my move back to Paris, where I tend to score my strolls to more pensive sounds, but it’s held up surprisingly well. In California, Com Truise’s washed out synths evoked memories of the daytime sitcoms I grew up on, and the shoulderpadded, frizzy-haired intro sequences that I’ve always held synonymous with LA. In France, its effect on my walks has been slightly different — less bounce, more glide — though it still dovetails nicely with the less diffuse rhythms of Paris. The song "Alfa Beach" is especially dear to my heart.

Dolfie Shoes

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Some people make fun of me for wearing the same beaded moccasins typically spotted on bratty 16-year-olds, but I don’t care because these shoes are unbelievably comfortable. Barcelona-based Dolfie is a relatively small company that makes embroidery-adorned boots and leather shoes, though my personal favorites are the fur-lined slip-ons — they’re really more foot pillows than they are shoes. They also make a nice tap when you walk on hard surfaces, which is always an important criterion for me. Plus, I like the beads.

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