One of the precious few escapes from the soul-sucking stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has been bonding with our couches and sweatpants while watching scores of movies. Whether we’re streaming one of Robert De Niro’s talented portrayals of characters who enjoy shooting people in the face, or dusting off our fossilized VHS players so that we can see the original, untainted Star Wars trilogy – before George Lucas tried to turn it into a digital effects-laden pile of Ewok manure–movies have a way of transporting us to galaxies and murder scenes far, far away
I know you are all bubbling with interest about my film-viewing habits, so here are a few of my favorites:
“The Shawshank Redemption”
Anytime I’m tempted to turn to a life of crime, a thorough viewing of “Shawshank” sets me on the straight and narrow path that won’t lead to crawling through 500 yards of prison sewage pipe. Even the prospect of becoming best friends with Morgan Freeman and reuniting on the beaches of Zihuatanejo doesn’t entice me to risk having to face a firehose shower in “the hole.” Even so, the last thirty minutes of “Shawshank” are some of the most inspiring of any film I’ve ever seen. (I still wonder if Andy Dufresne remembered to pack deodorant.)
“True Grit”- 2010
Yes, my father and most of my male relatives born before 1970 have probably considered disowning me for (among other reasons) suggesting that the Coen Brothers’ version of “True Grit” is superior to the 1969 film featuring “The Duke.” I’ve always been a sucker for the savage quirkiness of the Coens’ films, and even though I’m about as country and western as Bernie Sanders in a rhinestone-bespangled
Nudie suit, I could watch a paunchy, one-eyed Jeff Bridges face off with Lucky Ned Pepper’s gang a thousand times. Seeing that film always inspires me to dust off my only handgun – a trusty .38 Special I have on loan from my dad – if I could remember where I put it.
Speaking of quirky, Wes Anderson’s ochre-tinted films never fail to bring on the whimsy. I’m not certain why a coming-of-age story about a nerdy kid with glasses who fails at scouting but still gets the girl would appeal to me. Sure, as an adolescent, I wore a series of spazoid spectacles, I was in a constant state of hormonal distraction, and the highlight of my brief scouting career was when my fellow Cub Scouts and I convinced our den mother to take us on a tour of the local sewage treatment plant. Other than that, I just don’t see the connection.
It’s also hard to explain why I’m repeatedly drawn to this understated road film. It was produced in black and white, most of the characters are not particularly pleasant, the setting features the desolate landscapes of the American Midwest, and the story focuses on the dysfunctional relationship between an aimless middle-aged son and his confused, elderly father–basically the feel-good movie of 2013. Part of the film’s charm is that the “old folks” drive the development (and the humor) of the plot, and they are forces with which to be reckoned and, ultimately, taken seriously by the younger characters, which, as a parent of three teen daughters, gives me a faint bit of hope.
Watching this punishing depiction of 19th-century wilderness survival satisfies my deeply embedded (practically smothered) need to experience the great outdoors. No, I don’t have to camp, fish, hunt,
hike or anything else that lacks central heat and air to appreciate the splendor of God’s creation. In the comfort of my own bathrobe (or my wife’s), I can witness Leonardo DiCaprio being mauled by a grizzly bear, taking shelter inside a fresh horse carcass, and gagging on a raw bison liver, which pretty much does it for me.
These are only a few of the worthy-of-repeated-viewing films on my list, and I may share more some other time – if you’re lucky. In the meantime, grab your favorite soft pants and escape to the world of movies, where you don’t need a face mask–but you may want to bring deodorant.