movie therapy, part 2

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The world lost somebody pretty special when it lost Roger Ebert. No writer ever understood the power of film better than Ebert. “Every great film should seem new every time you see it,” he once said. It’s this kind of thought that illustrates what a fan of movies the guy was. And I happen to agree with him and I’m a fan too. As I round out my top ten favorite films today, I guess it’s important to repeat that these are movies I love or that affected me or helped me and maybe not considered the best films of all time. Different list. So without any further ado, here’s the rest of my top ten.

6. Guys & Dolls: Sinatra the actor and Brando the singer are two things that shouldn’t work but for me in this movie, they sure do. Add to it ace directing by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (director of my all time favorite, All About Eve, coincidentally) and terrific songs like “Luck Be A Lady” and “Sit Down Your Rocking the Boat” and you’ve got a film that never fails to put a smile on my face.

7. Young Frankenstein: As kids we must have watched every Mel Brooks movie a million times. But none of them can still make me laugh like a crazy person like Young Frankenstein. Particularly great in this movie are the women. Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr and Cloris Leachman are all hysterically funny. The folks in this film taught me how to be funny and I’m still working towards being a pale imitation.

8. Lady and the Tramp: No doubt there are better Disney films and this one is far from perfect. But I distinctly remember watching it as a kid and thinking, “That’s what love is like”. I’m sure my 6-year-old brain thought love was nothing but spaghetti dinners and Peggy Lee numbers but to this day I still think its one of the most romantic and charming films I’ve ever seen.

9. Rear Window: We were also big Hitchcock fans in my house and my parents and I watched this one a few years back during my first holiday season sober. My husband and I even worked on a stage adaptation of it. It’s great storytelling, terrific acting and Hitchcock doing what he does best.

10. Chicago: This was tough and could have been a four-way tie to round out the list. But Chicago is a movie I can’t get sick of and I’ve seen it A LOT. I remember watching a few times when my life wasn’t exactly great and for a few hours, Chicago made me feel better. Plus the casting and choreography is nothing short of inspired.

Honorable mentions and close calls: Wall-e, Clueless, Sixteen Candles, The Muppet Movie, Silkwood, Gone with the Wind, 9 to 5, Private Benjamin, Postcards from the Edge, Cabaret, Casablanca, Some Like Hot, Sense and Sensibility, Thelma and Louise, Dangerous Liaisons, Aliens, Working Girl, Out of Africa, Broadcast News, Hugo, The Piano, When Harry Met Sally, A Fish Called Wanda, and Grease. 

Now, it’s your turn. Tell me all about your favorite films and those movies that helped you. I’m dying to hear your list!

movie therapy, part 1

After a day of medical ups and downs ending with a solution (they adjusted my meds, officially ruled out pneumonia and cancer and sent me on my way with an easier plan than before–yay!), I had that feeling. You know that “I need to sit and stuff my face and watch a favorite movie” feeling. Aside from psychically still feeling sort of horrible, I need to turn my brain off. All of this uncertainty has worn a bitch out. So no era of filmmaking helps me forget my troubles better than comedies from the 1980s and early 90’s.

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I really wanted to watch Overboard or Outrageous Fortune or something incredibly cheesy of that nature. Since I’m a Netflix/Hulu/YouTube only kind of guy having said “See Ya” to cable years ago, however, I had to make concessions. I settled for the underrated camp classic Soapdish, the straight up brilliant Fish Called Wanda and Heathers, a film so funny it still slaughters all other teen films. With the exception of Sixteen Candles which is a comedy from God. My mini-moviefest helped. It was nice to laugh and quote the lines before the characters said them. Movies, I realized have always been my therapist, my escape and my friends. I watched hundreds of hours of old movies as a kid on local channels and on AMC. They were my education outside my little Denver neighborhood and catholic school world. Moreover, they were the reason I wanted to move to LA and tell stories. I’m sad that new movies don’t really inspire me or get me excited. But the thing about being in love with movies is you never give up hope or stop believing that maybe next season there will be ten things I want to see. In short, it’s a romance I won’t let go of.

This got me thinking about my LIST. You know that list of movies you can’t live without and that somehow made your world a better place? Maybe they aren’t all academy award winners or sheer genius. But they mean something and never fail to move you when you watch them. So here’s my part one of my top 10 list and feel free to leave the titles of your own movie therapists in the comments below.

1. All About Eve: Since I like show business, theater and films, it would only figure my favorite of all time would be about just that. But All About Eve isn’t only a great movie about showbiz, it’s also a great movie about life, friendship and integrity. Plus the writing is so damn good it blows my mind.

2. The Philadelphia Story: If it’s raining. If I’m sad. If I need to laugh. The answer is usually The Philadelphia Story. Why would anyone ever watch a Katherine Heigl film when this exists in the world? It’s brilliant and was the film that made me fall in love Hepburn, Stewart and Grant all at the same time. (Ps if you get this film confused with the sappy,overrated AIDS drama with Tom Hanks, you’re missing out and should see this one instead. )

3. Almost Famous:Another showbiz film and boy oh boy do I love it. I really think it’s okay that Kate Hudson, Cameron Crowe and Patrick Fugit never made another great movie after this one. It’s so good and so profound that the world was given a true gift with this movie and all involved should still feel proud.

4. The Hours:  “I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then.” It’s incredible observations like this one along with performances that I will never forget that make this movie list-worthy.

5. Hannah and her Sisters: When I was 14 I watched Hannah and Her Sisters on VHS (80’s child alert!) and that’s when I finally “got” Woody Allen. This funny and heartbreaking film covers everything from God’s existence to the complex nature of sibling relationships and I’m so glad my teenage self got to see it.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the rest of my movie therapists and please share your own! I’m always on the look out for a new love affair.

Inspiration for August 28th: “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John

From where I stand
You are home free
The planets align so rare
There’s promise in the air
And I’m guiding you

I know. You just read those lyrics and said “Huh? WTF.”  Trust me. This will all make sense. To truly understand the depth and brevity of “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John, one must first sit through the brain melting cinematic donut that is 1980’s Xanadu. Suffice it to say, “Magic” is a song of encouragement performed by Olivia’s character Kira help inspire the leading guy who never worked again to build a clandestine disco roller rink that could perhaps save all of humanity or at the very least Venice Beach. Did I mention that Kira is a Greek muse and that ELO wrote “Magic” (along with the rest of the soundtrack)? See, I told you it was all totally logical. Clearly, this inspiration is one of the guilty pleasure variety but 32 years ago today, “Magic” celebrated it’s fourth week on top of the Billboard charts cementing Olivia as one of the era’s most popular stars. And really what’s not to love?

Plus the song itself rocks. It still stands up as a great roller skating jam with weird, trippy lyrics and a thumping baseline. Granted, Tuesday, August 28th could be a depressing, inappropriately hot and uncomfortable day but I’ve decided it will be magic. Sure I might not have the gumption to build my own mystical roller disco but I can drop my crappy attitude, blast my favorite tunes and generally enjoy myself. Even if it is just for a few moments. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to turn your home office, car or kitchen into a temporary roller disco too. Remember, we have to believe we are magic and nothing will stand in our way. Now, where did I put my legwarmers?