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.