movie therapy, part 2

Young_Frankenstein7

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.

a1106-01_dnnbdwwb

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?

 

Inspiration for August 9th: Purple Rain

August of 1984 was a great time to be a kid who loved movies. I stumbled on a list of the top movies for August 3rd thru the 9th while researching this post. All I can say is holy crap. This list contains every film from that year I either saw and loved (Muppets Take Manhattan, Ghostbusters,  Last Starfighter, a re-issue of the Jungle Book and Karate Kid), wanted to see but didn’t until later (Neverending Story, Gremlins Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) or movie I was too young to see (Revenge of the Nerds, Bachelor Party) and today’s inspiration Purple Rain. Purple Rain was the badass movie with the incredible soundtrack that every teen or preteen in my life got to see. Everybody but me. R rated movies were a no-no and for a kid who broke every other rule in the book this was one I obeyed.

When I finally saw the film on VHS (three letters to confirm your suspicions that I am in fact a gentlemen of a certain age), I was blown away. Yes, it’s sexual content was scandalous for sort-of-good Catholic boy like myself. And yeah even I could tell the acting was wooden and the plot was kind of silly. But what sold the whole deal was Prince. Tiny with giant hair and shiny superhero-ish costumes, Prince had swagger before we even knew what swagger was. His extraordinary talent made us believe he was a sex symbol and even made the world like this goofy-melodramatic movie. Prince thoroughly owns his whole self in that film especially in the mind-blowing musical performances. In the end, we leave Purple Rain thinking it’s fucking fantastic because of him and because he believes in the Prince package as much as we do.

Talk about an inspiration. In fact don’t hate if Prince shows up in these pages again. The guy is that brilliant. In the meantime, I’m going to incorporate a little of that Prince swagger in myself today. Maybe I don’t have the balls (or other body parts) needed to wear his assless pants but I can try to embrace my whole self and believe in my own talents too.

Sparkleholic

I love this time of year. The competition. The tight races. The close calls. I’m not talking football but AWARDS SEASON!! Duh. I’ve loved the Oscars and every awards show since I was a kid. But anything sparkly always held my gaze. I dressed up as Wonder Woman in kindergarten. I dumped loads of glitter on my tree topper angel we made in 1st grade, much to the dismay of my Catholic school art teacher. Anything that was  beautiful and spectacular from the Miss USA pageant to Gone with the Wind, completely captivated me as a kid.  Because long before I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, I was addicted to shiny.

As a kid growing up in Denver in the 1970’s and 80’s in a charming urban old school neighborhood, glamour wasn’t something that usually stumbled down my street. Thankfully, television and pop culture provided what Denver couldn’t. Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman and the Muppet Show were the main sources of inspiration. But reruns of That Girl, Bewitched,  and Josie and the Pussycats fit the bill nicely too. Yet nothing compared to the Oscars. The Oscars were a time when every famous person got dressed up to celebrate my real true childhood love: movies. Movies were the ultimate in sparkly. They had  the instant ability to take me away from my day-to-day and put me in another world. My parents supported my love of movies, books, art and- God bless them- Strawberry Shortcake.  But life in an alcoholic home ain’t a walk in the park so movies and fantasy weren’t just a good time. They literally saved my life. I had a place to run to that was all Madonna songs ,scratch and sniff stickers, Pound puppies and old movies-24 hours a day. And the ugly stuff could simply disappear.

When I found alcohol and drugs and nightclubs and raves, it was as if the fantasy life never had to end. Dressed in glitter covered vinyl and boas and more sparkly t-shirts, my friends and I were the 90’s personified. We partied at clubs with Courtney Love and George Michael. We crashed movie parties and guzzled down free cocktails. We never paid to get in anywhere. But then you do that life 7 days a week and soon you’ve done it. And before you know it, your late 20s and early 30s have arrived and the party has moved from hipster dive bars into your living room. Seven nights a week and sometimes alone. Soon, sparkly is the last word anybody would use to describe your life.

Getting sober put me through the ringer and I wasn’t too worried about chasing fabulous anymore. That first year, I didn’t care about the Oscars and I barely went to the movies. But today I love the movies and can now remember what I’ve seen-always a bonus! I can’t wait to watch the Golden Globes tonight and the Oscars next month.  I admit a little temporary escape isn’t the worst thing and neither is the real world. My life, when I actually look at it, sparkles and glitters with amazing gifts- like a family who loves me, a healthy relationship and a  rich spiritual life.  And that is truly fabulous.