A few times a month, we at Daily Grindhouse like to put our heads together and ask each other the big questions about life, or about movies, our lives and our favorite movies being things that usually bleed into one another.
This is our first post back after things got extremely weird for our country (most of us are writing from America, although we do have a couple very lovely Canadians in our ranks). But that’s just how it went, and if things are getting weird out there, we’re going to have to crank that dial and make things all that much weirder in here. We own weird, we own scary, we own ferocious, and people are gonna know.
Take it away, Patrick!
PATRICK SMITH: Possible group question, but really just another distraction to keep me from crawling into this bottle of Jameson: What’s your “Pick Me Up” movie, for when life really gets you down?
JAMIE RIGHETTI: My go-to is always ZODIAC. It’s incredibly engrossing, full of great performances, a brilliant soundtrack and a classic Fincher color palate. While the Zodiac case is a rabbit hole I love to go down, the shock of raw violence in the film always brings it back down to reality and makes it more than melodrama. It’s Fincher at his finest and it always keeps me coming back. So for me, ZODIAC is a go-to when I need to be distracted.
JOHNNY DONALDSON: Slasher movies. For some reason, I gravitate most towards slashers whenever I am most bummed out. I think it has to do with the comfortable formulaic nature of the genre and how the dead teen characters tend to be such ciphers I can project whatever I want onto them.
PAUL FREITAG-FEY: This sounds insane, but MAGNOLIA. It’s an emotional wrecking ball of a movie for me, and it basically serves as a cinematic misery juice cleanse.
MAC BELL: Marx Brothers movies. Always a pick me up to see them tear down the establishment.
IVAN INFANTE: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Upbeat score. Success over long odds.
KEVIN MAHER: Sometimes you don’t need a good movie, you just need the right movie. I get cheered up watching a box-office bomb that I first saw at just the right time: STUART SAVES HIS FAMILY. It’s a surprisingly vulnerable and grounded comedy. (Not what you’d expect, since it was released during a slew of Saturday Night Live movies like THE CONEHEADS and A NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY.) Stuart is emotionally brave, and the film doesn’t cop-out in the ending.
ANDY VANDERBILT: I tend to use video games as more of a way. It tends to change year to year, but a near-constant one has always been DOOM, especially with the latest one. Fast action, no story to slow things down, visceral satisfaction, and you aren’t fighting people, you’re fighting monsters, which removes any sort of feeling of remorse. The recent 2016 DOOM has been an extremely great stress-reliever/pick-me-up, thanks to the GLORY KILL mechanic, which lets you finish off enemies in spectacular fashion.
ANYA NOVAK: Christopher Guest films always make me better. SPINAL TAP, BEST IN SHOW, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. The worst and the weirdest and the best of humanity, all in the span of a couple of hours.
ALBERT MULLER: For the worst of the worst (I’m confident this applies), it’s always anything Henson-related. Specifically THE DARK CRYSTAL or THE MUPPET MOVIE.
MATT WEDGE: Weirdly, even though it’s sort of a downer in the end, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE has become my go to for situations like this. It’s so loose, inventive, and relentlessly entertaining that I can’t help but be transported by De Palma’s flashy and witty direction and Williams’ perfect soundtrack. It’s everything that reminds me of why I love movies.
JONATHAN HOLUBIAK: HOT FUZZ. I love Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, and I think that this is their best work together. And now that I think about it, it fits with where the question is coming from… it’s an unexpected new reality that is out of place and not what it seems. Just a hilariously fantastic film.
ROBERT DEAN: I have a bunch (MONEY PIT, BLADE RUNNER, CHILDREN OF MEN) but my new one is TURBO KID. I just absolutely love it and find it to be such a goddamn hoot to watch and experience. It’s uplifting while having tons of gore, stylishly retro while still being something new, and has a real heart to it, underneath all the references and decapitations.
WENDI FREEMAN: THE HUDSUCKER PROXY. The Coen Brothers recreate that Capra-esque whimsy with Tim Robbins as the perfect folksy foil.
MIKE VANDERBILT: THAT THING YOU DO. It’s breezy, funny, romantic, has great set design and costuming and of course the music is… wonderful. All the details —and relatively low-stakes story — make it feel like the kind of movie that would have been released in 1968 rather than 1996. While the characters are at times simple archetypes , they’re all drawn with such detail that even Jimmy, who in the hands of a less capable filmmaker would be portrayed simply as a jerk, is played as a songwriter with genuine principles…even if he is alone in them. THAT THING YOU DO is also probably the most accurate depiction of being in a band next to THIS IS SPINAL TAP.
While the extended version is great (particularly as a fan who can’t get enough of these characters), the theatrical cut is a perfect 108 minutes. This was a passion project for Hanks, and it shows. LARRY CROWNE was a disappointment for me, making me wish that Hanks hung up writing and directing after THAT THING YOU DO, leaving us with one perfect film.
RYAN CAREY: Bill Forsyth’s LOCAL HERO. A quiet, understated gem of a film that is literally without flaws and makes me feel good about life no matter what it’s thrown at me — even an orange-skinned, even-oranger-haired, wannabe-fascist with no morals, ethics, or even a clue about what the fuck he’s doing.
BRETT GALLMAN: What is pure cinematic joy if not BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, a film that can basically be described as a scewball-kung-fu-Western from John Carpenter and Kurt Russell at the peak of their powers? It’s always been a sheer delight, but its final lines now resonate even more:
TRISTAN RISK: THE NEVERENDING STORY. Remember all the shit they went through? The Swamp Of Sadness? Seeing Fantasia destroyed? Right to that moment when the Childlike Empress shows Bastian the single grain of sand, and tells him he can rebuild it all, with his imagination. I can’t think of anything I feel closer to right now — with all the ignorance, fear and hatred clawing down the society of fairness, tolerance and compassion we hopefully all aim for — or anything that that reflects this better cinematically. It feels like worldwide, everything is crumbling, but here’s hoping we figure out how to make the one grain of sand-shot-at-fixing-this-shit happen so we can rebuild a stronger world. <3
JON ZILLA: Doing writing and seeing movies, my twin sources of solace so many times in the past twenty or more years of my life, haven’t been enough for me this past year. On my personal site, I wrote my way into some kind of theory as to why. Won’t rehash it here, but in a stunning upset of the natural order, to cite just one example, I’ve only seen two movies theatrically in the past two months. (Those were DOCTOR STRANGE and SHIN GODZILLA and if you can only see only two movies in as many months, you could do plenty worse.) That isn’t to say I haven’t found intermittent comfort here and there. It’s as essential as air, water, and food. While my unquiet mind still roves during a feature-length movie, scenes I can still do with relative ease. Clips, sketches, short subjects — the fallbacks, the failsafe moments, the captured sounds and sights that can coax a warm smile from the cold granite of my countenance no matter how dire the day or night. Here are a few of them, classified by type:
First of all, let’s talk about breakdancing-out-of-context. Surely, breakdancing is impressive to watch in its conventional habitat, out on the streets, in the subway, on the sidewalk — but give it to me in a more unusual setting, and my spirits soar.
No doubt you already know the scene from BREAKIN’ 2 where Turbo breakdances up a wall onto the ceiling…
But did you know there’s a scene in NINJA BUSTERS [no video available online; buy the Blu-Ray] where a kid fights off ninjas using the power of The Worm?
And in a movie full of highlights, there’s this moment from THE LAST DRAGON, where Leroy Green’s asshole brother Richie escapes from the ropes placed on him by villains using his elite breakdancing training?
Not sure why the jerky, not-quite-fluid movements provided by stop-motion animation captivate me so infinitely much more than the latest state-of-the-art computer-generated stuff, but it just looks right-er to my eye. Forget TROLLS; here’s THE MASCOT from 1933. Creepy freaky wonderment.
VINTAGE FREAKY SHIT
The ‘thirties were a boom time for bizarre and unholy childrens’ entertainments. I’ve written at length on this site about being enraptured for years by whatever is in that mouse costume in 1934’s Laurel & Hardy classic BABES IN TOYLAND. Now it’s your turn:
Another creepy ‘thirties artifact I’ve obsessed over publicly before, behold… DOGVILLE!
Like Lon Chaney silent movies, Three Stooges cartoons are a sure-fire place I can go to get out of my own head and marvel at what strange and hilarious things humanity is capable of coming up with. In “Violent Is The Word For Curly” — photographed by Lucien Ballard, who later filmed THE WILD BUNCH and THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE for Sam Peckinpah — the Stooges stumble their way into a professorship at a college for women. With any other team of comics, this premise would invariably tip towards lewdness. But not Moe and Curly Howard and Larry Fine. Nope. Their inexplicable and inspired decision is to teach the alphabet to a roomful of grown women.
UNABASHED & TRAGIC SINCERITY
I liked the movie ST. VINCENT just fine, but it’s the end credits sequence that warrants revisiting over and over, unless Bill Murray idly mumbling the lyrics to one of Bob Dylan’s most indelible songs isn’t something that appeals to you.
Even a man’s man’s man like me has to give it up for Sesame Street, particularly the gone-too-soon and wildly under-remembered Madeline Kahn singing with Grover.
From the studio of Art Clokey, who also brought us the eerily religious Davey & Goliath, this is the episode of Gumby where Gumby, Pokey, Prickle, and Goo go inside a history book and convince an indigenous people that performing human sacrifices is wrong.
The scarcely-remembered R&B trio Surface had a few songs you’ve no doubt heard at a middle school dance or a dentist’s office, but the video to “Shower Me With Your Love” strikes me as operating at a level of blithe tragedy there aren’t words invented yet to capture.
INTENTIONALLY FUNNY RANDOMNESS
Robert Smigel is one of the few people on Earth who understands how glorious animals and puppets and animal puppets are, as his short-lived TV Funhouse series proved. Some of the cartoons from that era are incredible. This cartoon is as funny to me on the two-hundred-somethingth view as it was on the very first. (I also recommend “Diddy’s Kiddies.”
UNINTENTIONALLY FUNNY RANDOMNESS
MAC AND ME is an atrocity, but as we all know, sometimes small pockets of joy can be found in the most unfortunate places. If you’re a longtime Conan O’Brien fan and a longtime Paul Rudd fan, you already know what this is. If you don’t, there’s really no preparing you.
PRACTICALLY ALL OF THE ABOVE
The hotel room scene from BASKET CASE, a centerpiece of my Twitter presence and also of the incumbent presidency.
And as an end note, this unexpected and weirdly inspiring moment from the movie TOP FIVE. Just smile.
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