Go To Your Happy Place

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Go To Your Happy Place

I’ve been a little blue lately. Reason being, we’ve recently wrapped production on a short film that had rattled around the back of my mind from January to April and occupied all of it from May up until about a week ago. It isn’t done yet – we’re editing, will be working through post-audio, and eventually submitting to festivals (a gut-wrenching experience in and of itself) – so the cord hasn’t been completely cut, but my free time has gone up exponentially over the last few days and it just feels a little weird. It’s always an emotional experience, and when it comes to a (relative) close I just can’t help but feel kind of down. To cope, I chose to revisit a few pics that always cheer me up and thought I'd share them with this week's ToM. These aren’t your typical feel-good favorites – they’re movies that simply have special meaning to me, for whatever reason. What does it for you folks when you're down?

Return of the Living Dead - If I had to, at gun point, name a favorite film, I suppose this would be it. I’ve seen Dan O’Bannon’s punk rock take on the zombie genre at least 50 times (the vast majority off a grainy VHS I taped when I was all of 10, from a local late-nite picture show called “Eddie Fingers’ Basement Tapes”) and it never fails to make me smile if not laugh out loud. The film had a huge influence on my sense of humor and musical tastes growing up, and O’Bannon’s irreverent approach to storytelling continues to inspire today. My go-to movie when I’m down. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Babe - OK, this is probably more like it for most folks. Sunny, silly, and filled with cute talking animals – how could you not feel good after watching Chris Noonan’s delightful barnyard fantasy? Still something of a technical marvel – have you seen any films since that showcase actual animals in such an effects-intensive scenairo? – the film is anchored by a sterling performance from the great (and since under-used) James Cromwell. George Miller’s sequel is probably considered a better film by most (and rightfully so), but for my money nothing beats the original porcine parable.

The Last Starfighter - a goofy, far-flung time capsule of ‘80s coin-op nostalgia. Small-town-boy-makes-super-good stories were a dime-a-dozen back then and there are better overall examples, but for some reason Nick Castle’s pic resonates loudest with yours truly. Picking it up on HD-DVD last year (I know, I know), I was surprised that whole chunks of (admittedly clunky) dialog had been lodged in my brain for lo these past 20-odd years. Seeing the film again was a bit of a mood revelation – it just made me happy to re-visit the bizarre future world that it posited. A remake is on its way next year – I’ll be sticking with the original.

Rushmore - I’m no fan of Wes Anderson’s recent output, but Goddamn if the man didn’t make three of the funniest, most touching comedies of ‘90s / early ‘00s with this, the best of the trio, sandwiched in between. So many brilliantly played moments, all from a gonzo cast putting in the collective best work of their careers, results in an achingly funny ode to awkwardness through every phase of life. Anderson and his cast are so in-sync, all it takes is a simple look or stylistic touch to a scene to crack funny bones. The film’s melancholy trappings are equally important –don’t want to let yourself go too high after feeling low.

Les Vacances de M. Hulot - cineastes will tell you it’s Tati’s later, more studied works you should prize and re-visit. Rightfully so, perhaps – there’s no denying the geometic beauty of the gags on display in Mon Onlce and Trafic. For my money, however, none are as out-right funny and joyful as his first turn as the pipe-smoking, perpetually befuddled Hulot. With most of the picture’s dialog taking the form of meandering background conversation, Tati turns the focus to the physical with consistently charming results. In light of the appreciation heaped on his later works, Hulot is woefully underrated in my book.

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Ard VijnJuly 8, 2009 3:11 PM

Oooh!!! Love Jacques Tati's work, and "Les Vacances du Monsieur Hulot" is brilliant!

For me, feeling good comes from watching "My Neighbour Totoro".
Also, I once saw "The Blues Brothers" diffuse a family fued. we were all tense going into the cinema, while we left with big idiot grins on our faces.

Seeing Jackie kicking ass in "Police Story" or Schwarzenegger lay waste to a complete army of villains in "Commando" will always bring a smile to my face.

Kurt HalfyardJuly 8, 2009 3:42 PM

A Fish Called Wanda, Ghostbusters, Kung Fu Hustle and Jackie Brown always do the trick for me. Special bonus cheer up points for Singing in the Rain.

David HJuly 8, 2009 6:44 PM

Oh, and Mary Poppins for sure. Absolute favourite.

Harry d, BusdriverJuly 8, 2009 8:28 PM

Six Days, Seven Nights kinda makes me happy every time I see it. I have no clue as to why though..

Kurt HalfyardJuly 8, 2009 9:52 PM

Good Call on Chungking Express. most of wkws films are good for this. THey simply take you away (for a time) with artificial possibility.

Ben UmsteadJuly 9, 2009 12:44 AM

I can't go wrong with this bunch:

Waking Life
Before Sunrise
The Mist
Raiders of the Lost Ark

and in particular... Gregory's Girl.

Ricki-Oh 90210July 9, 2009 1:00 AM

Troll 2
And yes...Ricki-Oh: The Story of Ricky

DanTruongJuly 9, 2009 4:19 AM

F-ing premature congrats on the short man! I know you're feeling a bit of withdrawal but it's quite an achievement. Much support and can't wait to see it. Keep us updated.

GodofJoyJuly 9, 2009 10:38 AM

Some great titles here. I agree on the "Babe", which I thought was the best film of the year when it came out (running a close second with 'Se7en') - though I found it even better the second time around with "Babe: Pig in the City" as well as "Singing in the Rain" - classic feel good 'ems.

A handful of others:
"Absolute Beginners" (Temple)
"Diva" (Beineix)
"City of Lost Children" (Caro & Jeunet)
"The Big Lebowski" (Coen Brothers)
"Barbarella" (Vadim)
"The Fifth Element" (Besson)
"8 1/2" (Fellini)

yannJuly 9, 2009 11:15 AM

I also know the postpartum blues quite well, and in case you need some unsolicited advice: get started on the next project asap ;). From the top of my head:

Betty Blue
Breaking the Waves

Ard VijnJuly 9, 2009 11:30 AM

Rhythm X' list is so damn solid that I'm going to look up every single title on it that I haven't seen yet!

Martin MadsenJuly 9, 2009 12:36 PM

I'm really impressed by the diversity of choices for this fascinating subject. My personal choices would be (in no particular order):

Flåklypa Grand Prix [Ivo Caprino, 1975]
Mimi wo Sumaseba [Yoshifumi Kondo, 1995]
Godspell: A Musical Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew [David Greene, 1973]
Hohokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun [Isao Takahata, 1999]
Majo no Takkyûbin [Hayao Miyazaki, 1989]
Cha no Aji [Katsuhito Ishii, 2004]
The Odd Couple [Gene Saks, 1968]

James DennisJuly 9, 2009 2:25 PM

Oh The Appartment and Some Like It Hot. You can't beat Tony Curtis doing Cary Grant. Fact.

Collin ArmstrongJuly 9, 2009 3:06 PM

Good selections, all! Some stuff in there that is surprising - might have to try a few out next time I'm feeling down (or just for the hell of it). Always appreciate knowing the sorts of films others are into - a big reason why I enjoy doing these columns so much.

kenixfanJuly 9, 2009 4:09 PM

Who said Breaking the Waves? Are you kidding me? I can think of no other film that made me sob like a baby at the end of it. Not to say that it's a bad film but my emotional reaction to that thing was so visceral that I'd never want to sit through it again.

I don't know if Von Trier is a masochist or a genius or both but, really, I needed to put on Singin' in the Rain after Waves...

FortJuly 9, 2009 6:57 PM

Great idea for a post and enjoyed coming up with this list. Looking forward to revisiting a few:-

Back to the Future II
Le Maitres Du Temps
The Odd Couple
Tokyo Godfathers
Save the Green Planet
Iron Giant
Hellboy 2
Nine Queens
My Neighbour Totoro
Kiki's Delivery Service
Jean de Florette
Pom Poko
Ghost Town
Eagle vs Shark

Collin ArmstrongJuly 9, 2009 7:19 PM

Oh man, SAVE THE GREEN PLANET! That movie. Yikes. I can't imagine it making me feel good, but to each his own! FWIW I love it - just can't watch it too often!

A long-ish anecdote involving that movie...

A few years ago some friends and I used to hold a movie club once a week - we'd rotate presenters, each person showing a short of some sort and then a feature, drinks and Q&A afterward. It was a lot of fun - just friends at first, but it really grew. At our height we had attendance in the mid-20s on a weekly basis. Anyway, we had our biggest gathering ever (30+ people) and it was my turn to present, and I chose GREEN PLANET. Whoops. Did that ever piss people off! I couldn't believe how unprepared for it the audience was (we had shown some weird stuff in the past - like HOLY MOUNTAIN weird). Their minds just couldn't crack it. Anyway, when we look back on the club now we always site that evening at the beginning of the end. We kept meeting but we never had attendance that high again!

Rhythm-XJuly 9, 2009 7:26 PM

Thanks, Ard Vijn, though I'm curious what you've not seen from it - it's very light on rarities, exceptions being the out-of-print ODD ONE DIES, and the endlessly quotable CLAWS OF STEEL English dub of LAST HERO IN CHINA - only legally released in Australia, but bootlegged in the US where apparently nobody owns the rights to the film.

sarkoffagusJuly 9, 2009 10:25 PM

I've got THE ODD ONE DIES. That's a good one.