Films: Cheer Me Ups

Photo by MGM [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The cure for anything, as far as I’m concerned, is a film. When a bit down and needing a guaranteed pick-me-up, I turn to one of these. They’re not taxing, some are a mite predictable, but they’re reliably comforting and cheering. Best watched under a cosy quilt, wearing silk pyjamas, with or without a tray of chocolate truffles at arm’s reach.

The Thin Man (and the first two sequels, though a blissful weekend can be passed with all six in the series)
William Powell, Myrna Loy and, of course, Asta the dog solve mysteries while drinking copious amounts of cocktails in these irreverent crime caper comedies.

An Affair To Remember
Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr meet on a cruise. One of the most famous cinematic love stories (Grant was apparently nursing a broken heart after an affair with La Loren while making this – so, he’s more convincing than usual), and better than all the other versions of it.

In Good Company
A tightly-scripted tale with Dennis Quaid trying to hold on to his job as youngblood Topher Grace enters the picture. A wry look into corporate culture. With Scarlett Johannson.

What Happens in Vegas
The contemporary archetypes of romantic couples are the anal-retentive woman and the perpetually-adolescent guy (see: any film with Sandra Bullock, Katherine Heigl et al). This is no exception but it has a little more zing than most. Curiously satisfying, despite the predictable ending.

The Family Stone
I’ve watched this more times than it really warrants but there’s something about the mix of characters, from Diane Keaton’s all-knowing matriarch, Sarah Jessica Parker’s uptight guest and, especially, Rachel McAdams’s sarky daughter. Great ensemble cast.

The Artist
Slightly too long towards the end, but a thoroughly charming tale of love in early Hollywood, told in silent black and white, with winsome leads in Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin. Loved her, loved him, loved the dog.

screenshot From Another Thin Man trailer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
From ‘Another Thin Man’

More Favourites:

  • Anything by Nora Ephron, especially Julie & Julia and You’ve Got Mail.
  • Catch Me If You Can Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks play cat and mouse in Spielberg’s spirited adventurous tale inspired by a true story.
  • Bridesmaids  Not as ‘gross out’ as the initial hype had led me to believe, but a very funny film grounded in real warmth by the characters’ friendships that splinter over an upcoming wedding.
  • Guess Who  An updated gender-switched version of the 1967 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, where Zoe Saldana (surely the most beautiful woman in the world?) brings home Ashton Kutcher to face her father, Bernie Mac.
  • The Rebound  Catherine Zeta-Jones playing a rare likeable character, opposite Justin Bartha in Bart Freundlich’s look at life after divorce.
  • The Holiday  Nancy Meyers’s film where Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet switch homes.
  • Friends with Benefits  A fast, funny, fresh rom com with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.
  • Best to avoid all by Mike Leigh if feeling low, except Happy-Go-Lucky (though this is surprisingly polarising – I loved it) and my favourite, Secrets & Lies.
  • Sex and the City  While I was dismayed at the unrelenting gushing over and pushing of designer labels, it’s still a great girlie treat: glamorous, stylish and fun, with a good dollop of heart and tears; the sequel is best avoided.
  • Keeping The Faith  I love it when nobody apologises for the woman being strong; a surprisingly tame directorial debut choice from Edward Norton about a love triangle, with Ben Stiller and a perfectly cast Jenna Elfman.
  • Up In The Air  Doesn’t George Clooney cheer everyone up so effortlessly?
  • The Very Thought of You  Despite the clumsy original title (Martha – Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence) , it’s a fun and breezy rom com, with a great supporting role by Ray Winston.
  • Midnight in Paris  Owen Wilson travels back to 1920s Paris in Woody Allen’s affable tale.
  • Just Like Heaven  Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo pick a cute but clever rom com.
  • Amélie  Audrey Tautou’s quirky, romantic waif tries to help other people find joy in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s fabled version of Paris.
  • When all else fails: The Sound of Music.

screenshot from Shadow of the Thin Man trailer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
From ‘Shadow of the Thin Man’
• Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

24 thoughts on “Films: Cheer Me Ups

  1. While I typically don’t re-watch movies, I would see The Holiday again and again for Eli Wallach’s character and Hans Zimmer’s score (and for Kate Winslet until she started gushing over Roman Polanski)

    1. Ha ha! Yes, on all accounts. The Eli Wallach character was done so sensitively, I’m sure Nancy Meyers was basing it on someone close to her.

  2. To go with the slightly escapist thread:

    Young Victoria (or perhaps it’s just me that Emily Blunt can cheer up effortlessly)
    Amy Adams’ other romcoms (Leap Year, Enchanted)
    Zeta-Jones’ other (eventually) likeable character (No Reservations)
    Zhang Yimou’s OTT colorful spectacles (Flying Daggers, Golden Flower, Hero)
    Anchorman, Old School, and 40-year Old Virgin (less gross than Bridesmaids, and funnier)

    1. Zaki, thanks so much for this brilliant list – love it!
      Yes, that Emily is quite something. She makes her co-stars look good too.
      Also love Amy Adams, and really enjoyed both the films you list with her – esp Enchanted.
      Haven’t seen No Reservations, because I love the original German version (Mostly Martha) too much! But will take a look since you like it.
      Should see more Zhang Yimou too – I think they look spectacular, but they leave me a little deflated. Maybe I need to have more soul?
      Loved 40-YOV (but then, I love Steve Carrell like I love Tina Fey), and will look out for the other two. Had avoided because it sounded kind of guy-funny (which sometimes is not the same as girl-funny…).
      So thrilled with this, Zaki. You’re a star.

  3. Carrell and Blunt did a cute movie together, can’t remember the name. She and Streep were the best things in The Devil Wears Prada (how on earth did Anne Hathaway ever become a movie star? I asked the same question of Kate Mara but then I found out she’s practically royalty by US standards).

    I expected more from Date Night, as I too am a big fan of Fey and Carrell.
    If you’ve seen the original, you could probably skip No Resv. I should probably see the original myself (and Nine Queens, the basis of Criminal).

    Maybe Zhang Yimou isn’t for everyone, but I became a big fan of the genre after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Looking fwd to seeing Wong Kar Wai’s take on it.

    Anchorman and Old School both have great ensembles, many of whom were not really stars at the time (Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell, for instance). I guess they are guy-funny in a rite-of-passage and perpetual-adolescence kinda way but there’s a bit of wit and sensitivity (and restraint on gross-out factor) that’s usually missing in the genre.

    Horrible Bosses comes to mind as a recent movie that both my guy and girl friends found pretty funny. It doesn’t take itself too seriously (how could it, there’s a tacit admission that you’d have to be a loser to keep working for such a horrible boss) and I thought Jennifer Aniston’s character was a hoot.

    I usually don’t like Adam Sandler but Just Go with It surpassed my rather low expectations. If you can suspend your disbelief (that a dude like Sandler could land not one but two hotties like Aniston and Brooklyn Decker) and, err, just go with it.

    1. Thanks for all your wonderful thoughts, Zaki. Always great to pow-wow with a film buff!

      Carrell + Blunt were in a cute film called Dan In Real Life. Unlike Sandler, I do believe Carrell would attract hotties like Blunt and Binoche in one film. Thought the same as you about Devil/Prada – and I still don’t get Anne Hathaway. She is all teeth.

      The only thing I’ve seen Kate Mara in is House of Cards, so haven’t seen enough of her, but – ha ha! – US royalty. So funny how some people get bestowed with all the glamour and adulation.

      I generally think of Wong Kar Wai in the same gorgeous-but-empty category, though I will always watch his films, regardless. Also because Chung King Express is one of my all-time faves.

      Ok, will definitely look up Anchorman and Old School – they way you’ve described them sounds exactly like the kind of comedy stuff I like – not squirmy-funny, but touching-funny (in that 40YOV way). I saw Horrible Bosses on a plane (incidentally, leaving my last job…) and found it hilarious and great fun.

      My ex’s young brother was obsessed with Sandler so I’ve actually had to watch all his films – interminable, I assure you. I find him DEEPLY annoying. The only two films that I quite liked with him in it were his more ‘serious’ roles – Spanglish and Punch Drunk Love. But then, I also really rate Paul Thomas Anderson (though I haven’t yet seen The Master – is it amazing?).

  4. Haha I think I relinquished my card-carrying membership of the American film buff club when, as I mentioned earlier, I found Citizen Kane underwhelming.

    What do you think of the recent trend towards television as a “better” storytelling medium vs cinema? Jane Campion, David Fincher, George RR Martin, the Liberace biopic, to name a few examples.

    1. I don’t think it’s “better” as much it’s grown from necessity – as the studios (i.e. traditional sources of funding for films) has been focusing more on the superhero/franchise model, so the “Miramax” type of films and filmmakers have had to look elsewhere. And now that TV’s no longer seen as the ‘little sister’ in terms of the glamour/prestige of films (thanks, I think, to shows like The Sopranos), filmmakers switching over quite willingly.

      Also, I think Netflix, HBO, Showtime, etc have made it very appealing to filmmakers – they’re not dictating terms at this stage (something studios – having worked at one – I know are very prone to do). They’re also being generous with budgets. (No doubt, at some point after saturation, it won’t look so sweet.)

      I have enjoyed some of the longer story arcs. However, I am dismayed by just how much time suckage TV shows require. I like the neat, compact nature of films. I got hooked onto Grey’s Anatomy and watched seven seasons on streaming – pretty much back to back (thanks to my obsessive nature). I lost many friends in that period. And the show’s STILL not finished!

      I haven’t seen Game of Thrones (which everyone says is the best thing ever) or Breaking Bad (ditto), and that’s only because I’m dreading having to put the rest of my life on hold while I indulge. Are they as amazing as everyone says?

      I’ve enjoyed some British shows more because they limit the number of episodes. The UK Office I still think is far funnier than the US one. Also, I fell madly in love with BBC’s Sherlock. I thought each (1.5 hour) episode was perfection. If there were more than three of them per season I think it would have felt diluted. But because US shows make money via syndication only if it runs to 7+ seasons, I think they start ‘jumping the shark’, which is most disappointing.

      How about you? Do you enjoy the shows more? Guess you get access to them more easily than I did in London. And what’s the show that Campion’s doing? Haven’t heard.

      1. Game of Thrones: I finally began watching last year as season 3 was about to begin and someone convinced my wife and her best friend that we “absolutely” needed to catch up. The first half dozen or so episodes were fairly slow and not too exciting. If there wasn’t a guaranteed payoff later, as our friends claimed, I probably would have stopped watching. In fact, at one point i did stop watching. It was such a struggle at one point that we all joked about “getting over the hump” of the 5th or 6th episode. It definitely picks up and gets better later, and I will admit seasons two and three were very good. But I’m kinda over it again, and I’m looking forward to other shows more. Haven’t seen Breaking Bad, either, and don’t know when I will.

        My current/recent favorites are House of Cards and The Killing. You’ve already seen HoC; I highly recommend the latter. The actor playing Holder was either born to play this role (like Jon Hamm in Mad Men, who can’t play anything else), or is one of the best actors on TV. The lead detective isn’t nearly as good, which is the big weakness of the show.

        The serials on tv like Grey’s Anatomy don’t do it for me, they run out of material very easily and become repetitive. Downton Abbey at least had something interesting to say about social hierarchies (even they have removed the interesting characters and left us with the wastes of space like Mary so I dont have great hopes for the show going forward).

        My friends and I used to watch Lost back in the day and, in retrospect, what a waste of time after season 3. Really weak towards the end. Other than Modern Family and the earlier seasons of 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother, there’s nothing on the main networks that’s really worth watching.

        Jane Campion did a mini series for BBC called Top of the Lake, about a pregnant 12yr old in New Zealand who goes missing.

        1. Zaki, it’s a total JOY getting your comments and stories.

          It sounds like I can hold off Thrones for a while longer – thanks for this! I haven’t watched any of the Scandi (or remakes) murder shows, though I should, because it’s the kind of thing I like (though I don’t like violence). I’ve heard the original of The Killing is superb too, so that’s already on my list. (Back to my previous point – if I had a film list, I can count on actually moving through it, ticking items off; with TV shows, it just feels daunting.)

          The first two seasons of Downton were so soap-opera-ish (the good characters so virtuous, the bad characters so evil), but in a thoroughly enjoyable way. The third season became so PC, it became annoying. Still, compulsive viewing. Have to figure out how to watch the new season here.

          I so hear you about feeling in retrospect that watching some shows felt like a waste of time. That’s how I felt when I diligently watched the whole first season of 24 (then, the most hyped show on TV) and thought – really? I actually wasted nearly 24 hours of my life for this? And I agree totally with your assessment of the comedies on networks. I thought the first few seasons of 30 Rock were the funniest things ever. The 6th season was just not funny. Though I know I’ll watch the whole 7th season just to show my appreciation of Tina Fey. I do love The Mindy Project, though, because I think Mindy Kaling is hilarious.

          Thanks for the Campion info – yes, now I remember hearing about it. Sounds grim but interesting. (So many mutilated girls everywhere.)

          1. We turned off cable so any TV we watch now is recorded/streamed via Netflix, etc. (no more mindless “viewing” of something or nothing which quickly fades into the background once your phone buzzes with a notification). Having done that, it’s easier to tick off shows with a couple half-hour episodes or an hour-long episode every weeknight. Though I do admit we “cheated” with The Killing and went a lot faster that that.

            I’m not sure what’s next. Netflix’s other original production “Orange is the New Black” isn’t nearly as good as House of Cards. I never liked Breaking Bad’s premise (a Chemistry teacher who becomes a meth dealer) though I’m sure it’s more complex than that.

            I just caught up on Sherlock (Series 2) – as you can probably tell, I’m not a rabid fan. It’s beautifully shot and wonderfully scored by TV standards, but it tastes a bit like take-out food – great at first but not really satisfying at the end. Many of the deductions are just hokey and, of all the ways that it’s been re-imagined, did Watson really have to be reincarnated as a doormat personality AND a man of such limited intelligence? E.g., it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Moriarty was caught in S2E3 because he wanted to get caught. In fact, the show beats you over the head with this notion via JM’s song and dance routine with the crown jewels, but it leaves Watson confused. Just by virtue of not being a doormat, the US version’s Lucy Liu makes a much better Watson.

            1. Aww, I guess I will forgive Sherlock a lot for overall just being so captivating. I love that Sherlock was shown as having Asperger’s Syndrome (even if they don’t make it explicit). I also loved their use of technology (both in the stories themselves, as well as the way they shot them), and I found it fresh and riveting. I actually thought S2 was even better than S1. (I also thought it absolutely perfect that the only kind of woman that would interest Sherlock would be a dominatrix.)

              I heard a lot of coverage of Orange is the New Black when it was about to start, and it didn’t sound that interesting. But then I’m not wholly enthralled by the prison genre anyway. (Did we talk about The Wire? That was about as prison-y as I’ll get.)

              So glad to hear you turned off cable! I never got cable – either in the UK or in India, and never felt like I missed anything. We have cable in Dhaka, of course, though I never watch it (the ads here drive me nuts). I’ve been in Dhaka for 3 weeks and I haven’t had any time to watch a single film – this makes me so sad. And it’s unprecedented for me to go this long. But I think the concept of time-suckage was really invented for here. One chore takes two weeks, etc.

              You sure you don’t want to write a guest post on your favourite thrillers? Or anything else? Will be fun! You’re such a good film buff and you write so eloquently, I think it would be great! Please do consider it.

  5. Kate Mara was in that mark Wahlberg sniper movie and a bunch of other forgettable roles. In most states where NFL franchises equal aristocracy, she’s descended from not one but two American football dynasties. I’m sure her connections got her where she is today.

    OTOH her sister Rooney is a genuinely good actor. From what could easily have been a forgettable role in The Social Network to a raw, gritty and brave performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to Side Effects, she’s quickly become someone worth watching. One of my post-Winslet favorites along with Emily Blunt.

    1. Didn’t know about the NFL connections of the Maras! Yes, do like Rooney in all those films. Kate, in comparison, looks a bit of a pipsqueak.

  6. It’s interesting that you put ‘Up in the Air’ as cheerful list because most people(myself included) would put it in the melancholy category.I think the minimalist look got you.
    I’d add “You Can Count On Me’ and a very recent watch ‘The Station Agent’ in this list.

    What about other Ricky Gervais shows-‘Life’s too short’,’Extras’? I think they’re hilarious!

    1. Ha ha – possibly. I just remember thoroughly enjoying the uptight colleague who he has to travel with. I just find George comforting too.

      Love your other suggestions. Have you seen Tom McCarthy’s next film, The Visitor? I found that absolutely brilliant.

      Didn’t list any TV shows in any of these lists, but I love Ricky Gervais!

      1. She is good! This was the first film I’d seen her in. I later saw her in something Keanu Reeves produced, and she was the best thing in it. I heard she was in a TV version of Psycho which sounded interesting.

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