We all have our favorite comfort food--pizza, M&Ms, ice cream, tamales, Twizzlers--choice snacks we’ve bonded with because they’re so satisfying. We never get tired of them either as they trip that special little lever in our psyche. Some movies can be like that. There are films we’ve seen so many times we have every scene and line of dialog memorized, yet something about those movies always resonates within us.
My favorite comfort movies:
The Big Lebowski
I’m ashamed to admit this, but the first time saw I this (on VHS) I fell asleep. A friend recommended that I give it another try, and Pow! I’m forever hooked. The movie’s goofy plot and quotable dialog have made it a cult favorite. It probably has more expletives per minute than any other film and even ridicules itself on that point, as when Sam Elliot as The Stranger asks Jeffery Lebowski why he has to use so many cuss words. And to that the Dude replies, “What the fuck you talking about?”
The Spaniards appreciated the movie’s blue language and did it justice in this translated sample clip.
Last of the Mohicans
The other adaptations and even the book by James Fenimore Cooper don’t hold a tomahawk when compared to the 1992 version starring Daniel Day Lewis in his heart-stopping, hunky glory.
It’s a delicious, bloody saga of betrayal, honor, and love that makes me tear up every time I see it. There are so many details director Michael Mann got right. Like when sisters Cora and Alice embrace when they follow Hawkeye in their journey to friendly lines. The film score. The costumes. How Major Heyword sacrifices himself to be burned alive to save Cora, even as she escapes with his romantic rival, Hawkeye. And Wes Studi as Mugua is the ultimate twisted villain.
Is Alien thirty-one years old? Yet it holds up so well. Because the movie appeared in prehistoric pre-internet days, director Ridley Scott was able to withhold photos of the alien creature, baiting the public with rumors that it would be like no other monster in film. After decades of bogeymen in cheesy rubber suits, we finally got a creature that made you wet your astronaut diapers. The goo dripping from the telescoping jaws was a stroke of genius.
Seven years later we got Aliens, which I first saw in 70mm Dolby. Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley proved herself the supreme B.A.D.-ass hero, entering American pop culture on a stature equal to Batman or James Bond.
I’d be surprised if this movie isn’t in everyone’s stack. Who doesn’t have a favorite line? What’s not to relish about the breezy conversation when Vincent Vega buys heroin?
“I’ll take the Pepsi challenge with that Amsterdam shit any ol’ day of the week.”
“That’s a bold statement.”
“Mind if I shoot up?”
“Mi casa es su casa.”
The DVD’s French translation is worth checking out with its pitch-perfect slang and voices.
Here’s a clip of Jules Winnfield about to give his famous Ezekiel sermon in Italian, English, Spanish, Turkish, and German (which of course, sounds the most menacing).
The Thin Man
Another movie that I slept though when I first watched it. Bad Mario. Since then, I’ve memorized every alcohol-induced snarkism.
“What hit me?”
“The last Martini.”
People back then, even the lushes and liars, dressed better and seemed much more classier than folks today.
Another flick about booze so that makes this a keeper. Memorable for a plot that cruises along on Miles’ (Paul Giamatti) snobby theatrics and then yanks us by the groin with jolts of human behavior at its most earthy. Most-in-your-face scene: Miles catches Thomas Hayen Church and Sandra Oh doing nasty monkey love.
I’m not brainy or literary enough to be an ardent fan of Shakespeare but who can resist Julie Taymor’s amazing spectacle: a mishmash of Ancient Rome, Fascist Italy, and Fifties America (with a Thunderbird convertible) in an aesthetic I call Steampunk Centurion (dibs).
Antony Hopkins, Jessica Lang (remember her from the 1976 King Kong?), and Alan Cumming star in this gruesome tale about the toxic effects of revenge set against a backdrop of incest, orgies, mutilations, rape, betrayals, murder, and cannibalism. Yumm, pass the popcorn.
Harry Lennix holds his own as the chilling uber-villainous Aaron.
Also in my stack of Comfort Movies: Strictly Ballroom, Flying Down to Rio, Casablanca, Conan the Barbarian, High Fidelity, and Scent of a Woman.
Thanks for the guest appearance.
Mario Acevedo is the author of the Felix Gomez vampire detective series. His most recent novel is WEREWOLF SMACKDOWN. The undead mayhem continues in the comic series KILLING THE COBRA.