Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks - Comfort Movies

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join us by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing about them; it's fun and easy!

Happy December everyone! It is now officially okay for you to start putting up Christmas decorations and playing Christmas music. I hope you all enjoyed Thanksgiving. I had the pleasure of having not one, not two, but THREE Thanksgivings between Wednesday and Sunday, which is why I was MIA for Thursday Movie Picks last week (for those of you who may be wondering, my three Western picks would have been Johnny Guitar, High Noon, and A Million Ways To Die in the West, with the huge caveat that I don't particularly like Westerns). They were all delicious, but very different levels of enjoyable (ah, family - can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em!)

Anyway, this week, it's the movies that we play whenever we're feeling down - the cinematic equivalent of chicken soup. So this week was pretty easy.

Le fabuleux destin d'Amelie Poulain (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001) Is there a nicer movie than Amelie? I honestly don't think there is. The story of a lonely French girl (Audrey Tautou, utter perfection) who discovers great joy in devising elaborate schemes to give other people joy - but cannot work up the courage to give herself the greatest joy, a man who loves her - Amelie is just a perfectly playful delight from start to finish, and has so many moments that just make me sigh with contentment. Plus many more that thrill me, make me laugh, and maybe even make me cry a little. Aside: When I had a car, Yann Tiersen's buoyant score was always in the CD player, and quite often soundtracked my drives. I highly recommend this; it adds a certain je ne sais quoi that makes the journey that much more enjoyable.

Shakespeare in Love (John Madden, 1998) I just... I can't even talk about this movie anymore. That perfect script, those luminous performances, that swooningly, achingly romantic score. This is romantic comedy done so, so right, and if people can't see that it's just as well-crafted, and thus just as deserving of Oscar's love, as any serious-minded war film, then I would almost go so far as to argue that they don't truly love movies, they only love certain types of movies. Which is fine, but just be honest and open about it! Anyway, the pleasures of this are so many, and so great, that I may even like it MORE each time I watch it.

Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964) I mean, insert pretty much any Disney Classic into this slot, but today my pick is this one. When I was young, we had a VHS tape of this that was taped off the TV. My sister and I wore it out fast-forwarding through all the commercials. Thankfully, the constant stopping and starting didn't have any impact whatsoever on the film's joyousness. Easily the best live action film Disney has ever done, and with one of the studio's best original scores, this one really is as close to cinematic chicken soup as I have ever experienced - it never fails to make me feel better when I'm sick.


  1. THREE Thanksgivings! Yikes!! Nice or not that had to be wearing.

    I LOVE one of your choices and like the other two. I wanted to love Amelie but just liked it. Maybe I walked in with my expectations too high because of all the effusive praise everyone heaps on the film but I didn't find it as magical as I expected. I'll watch it again someday and maybe a second watch will reveal things I missed.

    There were so many things I loved about Shakespeare in Love, Joseph Fiennes, Ben Affleck's fun performance, Judi Dench's Good Queen Bess (though an Oscar for it is just not right) and so much more but Paltrow's blandness held me back from fully embracing it. She's just an actress that almost without fail, I did like her in Emma, I never connect to and is a drain on whatever film she's in.

    You can't beat Mary Poppins though for pure joy. Everything is perfect, the saucy but not bratty kids, Glynis Johns & the Sister Suffragette number with Reta Shaw & Hermione Badderley, Dick Van Dyke and his goofy accent all the way down to Jane Darwell's bird woman and of course leading them all Julie Andrews. I saw it the first time when I was very young on a re-release and was captivated and I've tried to watch it for the first time with all the nieces and nephews who have followed. That first flush of wonder is great to behold.

    This could have been a challenge simply because I have so many comfort movies but I selected three I really turn to when I'm looking to relax and didn't fret over what was left out.

    The Prize (1963)-It’s Nobel Prize week in Stockholm and as the winners gather reprobate writer Andrew Craig (Paul Newman) begins to suspect that one of the other winners physicist Max Stratman (Edward G. Robinson) has been replaced by an imposter. As he blunders about looking for answers his initially doubtful chaperone Inger Lisa Andersson (a very beautiful Elke Sommer) comes to believe him and tries to help. Both fun and suspenseful this is the Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock didn’t make!

    Women’s World (1954)-Ultra luxe, star studded drama of a corporate competition for the top job at an automobile company. Three couples, the loving Midwesterners (June Allyson & Cornel Wilde), the wry but troubled East Coast couple (Lauren Bacall & Fred MacMurray) and a Texan and his rapacious wife (Van Heflin & Arlene Dahl) are brought to New York by the owner of Gifford Motors, (Clifton Webb) so he can assess not only who is best for the job but whose wife is the most suitable. Shot in Cinemascope, laced with humor, nicely directed in sumptuous settings (the offhandedly mentioned country house is a mansion of enormous size!) with a fine group of performers cast to their strengths this makes no heavy demands on the viewer, like wrapping yourself in a warm, cushy blanket.

    My Dream is Yours (1949)-Doris Day’s second film is a bandbox pretty concoction. She plays Martha Gibson, a hopeful widowed singer with a young son discovered by radio agent Doug Blake (Jack Carson) who has a hard time getting her a big break despite the fact that she sings like a bird. That doesn’t stop him from trying everything under the sun with the help of his good friend Vi (Eve Arden). In the meantime Martha falls for radio star Gary Mitchell (Lee Bowman), a pompous jerk with a drinking problem. Eventually her chance comes, she’s a smash but there’s pesky romantic complications to deal with. Cheery musical loaded with great music, a bright studio sheen and Doris at her early best. There’s a sequence where she and Jack Carson dance with Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird and other animated Warner cartoons that is like some kind of fever dream!! Though it’s radically different from the other movie Martin Scorsese has sited this as his inspiration for his “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”.

    1. I know lots of people for whom Amelie was simply "too much" - I suppose I get it, but it's so unique that it feels like a breath of fresh air to me. I think Gwyneth is just luminous in Shakespeare in Love, and creates an exquisite Juliet - she's incredibly fleet-footed and somehow makes the film calm down whenever she's onscreen. It's kind of a magical performance in that way.

      I have not seen any of your picks, but I've heard a lot about The Prize so it's been on my list. You have put Woman's World on the map for me before and the next time I'm feeling not-so-great I'm going to find it and watch it and report back to you! My Dream is Yours sounds a bit nutty, but I love Doris Day, Eve Arden, and Jack Carson (not to mention Bugs and Tweety!), so it sounds like another I will be adding to my list!

  2. About those Western picks, I haven't seen A Million Ways but both Johnny Guitar & High Noon are fantastic films and picks. Radically different but special in their own ways.

    Since you were M.I.A. last week you should swing by Dell's site-he did a very fun Girls Week exclusively devoted to female lead films and was kind enough to let me contribute a few posts. Johnny Guitar would have fit right in!

    1. A Million Ways... is not exactly good, for a lot of the runtime it's actually quite terrible, but Charlize Theron is terrific in it and it's VERY different from any other Western I've seen. Neil Patrick Harris also has a HILARIOUS musical number. I laughed, but it's not something I would watch again by choice.

      I had wanted to do something for Dell's Girl Week but ended up not having the time! :( Loved everyone's posts for it, though.

  3. Aww Amelie! I like all three of these films but I especially love that one.

  4. Love seeing Amelie here. It's such a great film!

  5. Most definitely yes the first two. Amelie does indeed have an excellent score - someone at work at a weird version of the end song - heard it and though 'is that Amelie?'

    I revisited Shakespeare in Love after a long while - liked it first time but upon further viewings, it really is a fantastic film - British film at its best.

    1. OOOOOOH I must find that version! I love weird remixes!

      Shakespeare in Love really is tremendous British film.

  6. Good grief! I meant to write here sooner but crappola happened. Anyhow, I still have to see Amelie which has been on my to see list for years. Shakespeare in Love is a great movie, funny yet The Geoffrey Rush character. Mary Poppins is so much fun and who knew that Dick Van Dyke invented the pants that all young boys now wear

    1. AW it's okay, Birgit! Look how long it took me to reply to everyone!

      Do see Amelie as soon as you can. It's just lovely.

      I quote Geoffrey Rush's character from Shakespeare in Love ALL THE TIME.

      I know he gets a lot of shit for the accent, but I LOVE Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins!

  7. Yes to Mary Poppins. I used to have the Mary Poppins VHS as a kid, one of the few my family had, so it was played often and I just love all the songs.