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Seeing a movie in a theater can be an amazing experience — something I hope we don’t lose due to either economics or (misplaced) safety concerns — but it’s generally impractical to see a film repeatedly in theaters, especially one that strikes your particular mood. For that, the home is infinitely superior.
We’ve talked many times about what the best movies are — either artistically or in terms of values — but I’d also like to explore what movies members enjoy under different circumstances. Don’t worry so much about whether a given film is actually the best or even the best-suited to a given circumstance, and feel free either to use my categories or invent your own.
Happiness: The Gods Must Be Crazy
On paper, this film shouldn’t work. Its three (four?) subplots are tonally discordant — how many PG-rated comedies open with a 15-minute documentary-style anthropology lesson followed by an assassination scene (with fatalities) played for laughs? — and the Rousseauian depiction of the Bushmen is probably as accurate as Wodehouse’s portrayal of the British aristocracy. It is, however, one of the funniest and sweetest films I’ve ever watched: my grandmother and I used to get caught in hysterics during the Land Rover scenes, and the last 30 seconds make me tear-up every single time.
Ignore the sequels.
Goofy/Fun: O, Brother Where Art Thou?
Another film that makes little sense on paper, the Cohen Brothers grafted allusions to The Odyssey onto a story about a depression-era prison escape, with an enormous helping of folk, spiritual, and bluegrass music. Clooney is very, very funny as the leading man; the cinematography and post-production work is simply stunning, the music superb, and the script just gets funnier and more clever with each viewing.
And how many movies can take the line “Them sirens did this to Pete. They loved him up and turned him into a … horny toad” and make it work?
Romantic: Persuasion (1995)
Austen’s final novel has higher stakes than some of its predecessors — one never really worries for Elizabeth Bennett, for instance — and I find the results more powerful. Made in the heyday of 1990s Austenmania, this film didn’t get a lot of notice, which is a shame given how well-crafted and superbly acted it is: Amanda Root’s portrayal of Anne’s growth from depression to confidence is nothing short of spectacular, and Ciarán Hinds’ performance just goes to show how the guy improves everything he touches. The scene where the two of them talk in the opera lobby has more romantic tension than almost anything I’ve ever seen.
Re-watching really pays off with this one: there’s some incredibly deft work happening in the background, and the supporting cast shines all the more when you can pay attention.
Unfortunately, both of the promos available on YouTube are painfully — fatally — over-produced and what clips there are tend to turn into fan-made music videos. This one, at least, gives a flavor of Hinds’s contribution.
Contemplative: A Man For All Seasons
This should need little introduction, but the combination of Robert Bolt’s script and Scofield’s performance — with some strong assists — makes for an amazing depiction of the costs and importance of integrity.
Brooding: LA Confidential
It’s well-worn territory, but I can’t think of a film that better depicts the shine, promise, and rot of 1950s Los Angeles than this. Featuring (genuinely) star-making performances from both Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce — as well as an excellent one from Kevin Spacey, just as he was hitting his stride — this has the added benefit of two excellently choreographed shoot-outs and a noir plot that actually makes more sense on repeated viewings.Published in