Rainy Day Favorite Films

Getting outside has lost much of its appeal in the midst of these rainy, cold conditions. So we turn to indoor pursuits.

It prompts the question: What films do you feel compelled to watch again and again?

Maybe you think they’re brilliantly made. Perhaps they’re visual comfort food. But without researching on the Internet, what are the films that pop into your mind and why?

Here’s my list:

“Lord of the Rings” trilogy

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I’m counting all three films as one big movie. They’re so visually impressive and driven by such a compelling story and characters, you can almost start at any point in the trilogy and get swept away.

There are places Peter Jackson could have trimmed (the long goodbyes at the end seemed to take an eternity — how many long gazes between Frodo and Sam do we need?), but in general, this was one of the grand accomplishments in recent film history.

Huge special effects films often leave us cold because of their average storytelling. You’re always “aware” that you’re watching a movie with fancy special effects. The “Lord of the Rings” films, by contrast, transported us to a completely new world where wanted to stay and explore for hours and hours.

“The Shining”

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I truly think this was the most frighting movie ever made. What a collision of talent — story by Stephen King, directed by Stanley Kubrick, starring Jack Nicholson.

There’s a sinister feeling from the very opening scene where a car is driving up a mountain road. There’s something about the way the music blends with the visual. It’s truly inspired stuff and one of the great films of all time.

I’ve seen it so many times that it doesn’t really scare me anymore, but the first viewing was the stuff of true nightmares. And what about all the classic lines by Jack: “Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya.” And, “Here’s Johnny!”

“Goodfellas”

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“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster,” says Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill near the opening of the 1990 Martin Scorsese film. From there it’s an exploration of mafia thuggery and excess from the 1960s and ’70s. It’s based on a true story.

Powerful and memorable performances by Liotta, Robert Di Niro and Joe Pesci. I have a hard time with violence in films these days (which is a contradiction, I know, to these films I’m picking) and this one has plenty of it. But it’s such a compelling film it pushed me past the violence.

The incredible tension Joe Pesci’s character creates in his, “What’s so funny about me?” scene, illustrates the power of the characters. “Goodfellas” influenced a lot of films that came later, including the entire “Sopranos” franchise.

“The Empire Strikes Back”

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It’s the best of the “Star Wars” films. The Rebels are on the run being chased through all these incredible worlds. The new trilogy of “Star Wars” films were so bad they’re not worth discussing. The original film was also brilliant and it set the table for this one — arguably the best sequel of all time. The cracks in the armor were beginning to show by “The Return of the Jedi,” a film that started well, but ended in a sea of teddy bears.

But “Empire” had it all — a snowbound planet, flying through asteroids, a giant space worm, cloud city, Darth Vader at the height of his powers and “I’m your father,” Yoda moving a space ship with his mind, the princess falling for Han. Gotta love it.

“The Last Waltz”

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The real-life concert film with The Band (and featuring Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond and others) is true comfort food to me. If I’m ever feeling too bad, I put this one on.

It’s such an incredible capture of a performance by some of the most important figures in modern music over the past five decades. Scorsese captured lightning in a bottle here (what a contrast from his recent concert film on the Stones, which is almost tough to watch in its contrived, hollow lifelessness).

“Sideways”

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I know some people who hated this film, but to me it’s gem on so many levels. Directed by Alexander Payne, it’s a story of two men in search of good wine and maybe women on a misguided buddy trip in Southern California.

Paul Giamatti’s Miles and Thomas Haden Church’s Jack are such flawed modern characters. Miles pathetically steals money from his mother. Jack narcissistically chases women on the eve of his marriage.

Where it’s brilliant (and it’s terribly funny), is in its drift through the warped shards of the American dream. We see a visceral psychosis of modern living as it clashes with our desire to become something greater. We all want to be great writers or actors or lovers, yet we so often succumb to our fears and inner critics and addictions. Wine represents something real and noble and true from the earth.

•••••••••••••

OK, here were a few of mine. What are some of yours?

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is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com
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20 Responses

  1. Avatar Chris Bennor says:

    I don't have a lot of repeaters, but some I can watch again and again.

    Die Hard

    A Room with a View

    Love Actually

    Goonies

    The original Star Wars trilogy

    Jurassic Park I and III

    Grand Canyon

    The Big Chill

    Any of the Harry Potter movies

    Elf

    Independence Day

    The Rock

    Sleepless in Seattle

  2. Avatar Derral says:

    Once there was a flick
    It's always on in my mind
    The Blues Brothers rule.

  3. Avatar Adam Mankoski says:

    This time of year, I have Christmas Story, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, The Family Stone, Pol;ar Express, Rudolph, and Jim Carey's live action Grinch.

  4. Avatar Sean says:

    Definitely "The Last Waltz", Jim. Who can deny Van Morrison doing high-kicks in a spangly jump-suit and receding hairline?

    I'd also add any and all of the Coen Bros. films (especially O, Brother Where Art Thou and The Big Lebowski) and for another concert film, U2's Rattle & Hum. So great! Made long before U2 was boring and before Bono was ridiculous.

  5. Avatar ambercita says:

    The Right Stuff

    Paris, Jt'aime

    Annie

    Moonstruck

    Lost in Translation

  6. Avatar Steve Fischer says:

    Put me in the group that thinks "Sideways" sucks swamp sewage.
    I like the first "Star Wars" because it was so totally new, but you're right, "Empire" was the best of the lot. [Don't you wish George Lucas had gone ahead and made all nine that he originally planned?] Have to admit I never saw the "Rings" trilogy – or read the books. I also haven't seen "The Last Waltz." I liked "Mad Dogs & Englishmen," and have thought about re-watching "Woodstock" to see how it holds up to memory of the times.
    "The Godfather" trilogy (no use for "Goodfellas"). And I like old movies like "Ivanhoe," "Quo Vadis" and "The Thing" (the 1950's version).
    Almost any old Sci-fi like "Forbidden Planet."
    Oh, and "Shane" every time.
    The only Christmas movie worth watching is "Miracle on 34th Street." It's almost obligatory, like listening to "Alice's Restaurant" on Thanksgiving. "We're just waiting for it to come back around on the guitar…"

    Thanks for getting me thinking about this.

  7. Avatar Pete Angwin says:

    The one I keep coming back to is Almost Famous- Cameron Crowe's love letter to rock and his start as a young writer for Rolling Stone. Among the gems is a masterful performance by Phillip Seymour-Hoffman as Lester Bangs, publisher of Creem magazine.

  8. Avatar Greg Pate says:

    Well Jim,

    I think just one comedy is not enough (and count me in the group of folks who really enjoyed "Sideways"). I can always go for a viewing of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." And even the little, early John Cusak film, "Better Off Dead"… it's got Christmas and snow, so it's appropos. I concur on "A Christmas Story." And another less-known movie filled with stars, "Drowning Mona."

  9. Avatar Jim Dyar says:

    Some others that could have made my list: "Blade Runner," "American Beauty," "True Romance," "The Blues Brothers," "Apocalypse Now," "The Road Warrior," "Alien," "Aliens," "Fargo," "Airplane," "Clerks," "Platoon," "Caddyshack."

  10. Avatar Greg Pate says:

    I agree with many of those. Especially "Alien," (I thought they totally blew it in the sequel); "Airplane," and "Platoon." And let's not forget "Battlefield: Earth" and "Porkin' Mindy."

  11. Avatar Erin Friedman says:

    I've got to agree with Steve on "Sideways." I despised every character in that film.

    A few I have watched over and over:

    The Big Chill

    Sullivan's Travels

    It's a Wonderful Life

    Annie Hall

    And I'm embarrased to admit that I laugh every time I see "George of the Jungle" -silly goofy fun.

  12. Avatar Uncle E says:

    Well I just gotta chime in here. I agree with all of your picks, but here are a few more:

    Sexy Beast: Ben Kingsley plays a psychotic very well, a far cry from Ghandi, and Ray Winstone is great playing a subdued ex-bank robber. Ian McShane is also menacing.

    Waking Ned Divine: Another English indie, but one of my all time favorites. About a guy in a small town in Ireland (Scotland?) who wins the lottery and instantly dies from a heart attack. The town (all 40 or so) hatch a scheme to cash in by electing a delegate to pretend he's the owner of the ticket (the dead guy signed). Heartwarming and very funny.

    Others: Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill 1 and 2, The Full Monty, Trainspotting, The Meaning Of Life, Blue Velvet, The Godfather #1 and #2, and many more. Lastly, I'll pull out A Christmas Carol with Alistair Sim many times throughout the year. It never gets old.

  13. Avatar Uncle E says:

    Oh, and in regards to the Shining: It doesn't scare me that much anymore either, EXCEPT the scene when Danny runs into the twin girls in the hallway! Freaks me out just thinking about it.(*shudder*shudder*)

  14. Avatar Waylon Diablo says:

    Not a Bad list there Boy-o… I love the lot of em.

  15. Avatar Jolene Stoxen says:

    Movies are such beautiful gifts and treasures from heaven!

    Some of my all time favorites:

    Braveheart – Mel Gibson – when he cries, "Freedom", he speaks for righteousness, purity, holiness, bravery, truth, justice, strength of character, freedom from this life for one that is true and pure befor God and man.

    The Scarlet Letter – Demi Moore – her determination in fighting for love verses a false religious chain is amazing. The strength of character to withstand a city of religious to pursue the truth in her heart was beautiful.

    Ghandi – Ben Kingsley – beautiful beyond words. Here was another man of conviction who touched a nation with love and justice without violence but with fasting and praying for the hearts of men to be turned to love.

    Jesus – Jeremy Sisto – the ultimate in movies. This movie brought out the human side of Jesus. He laughed, danced and cried for the souls of every man to be free to love.

  16. Avatar Laurie says:

    Those that come to mind first:

    Bringing Up Baby
    Harvey
    Notorious
    Gaslight
    Make Mine Mink (a 50s Ealing Studio comedy)
    Kind Hearts & Coronets (ditto)
    The Importance of Being Earnest
    Now, Voyager
    Safe in Hell (a pre-Code masterpiece)
    Three on a Match (ditto)
    Employees' Entrance (ditto)
    The Wizard of Oz
    Anything with Buster Keaton

    P.S. At our house, we love Sullivan's Travels and It's a Wonderful Life too, Erin! And The Last Waltz is, of course, irresistible.

  17. Avatar Laurie says:

    Uncle E, how could I forget the quintessential Scrooge?

    All hail Alastair Sim!

    He was pretty great in drag as a schoolmistress, too:
    check out any of the St. Trinian's movies for pure silliness.

  18. Avatar Bill Collins says:

    Lisa and my favorite is OVERBOARD. Silly love story, with an ending that always brings a tear to my eye, with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell
    Others: WAGES OF FEAR (tension filled with french sub titles) and DIABOLIQUE also French subtitles, one last Jean Costeau's ORPHEUS. A classic fantasy favorite!

    Okay so I like "mostly mysteries" with a FRENCH ax-cent. hahaha.

    • Avatar Susan Daugherty says:

      Thank goodness. I was embarrassed to put down PRETTY WOMAN until you copped to OVERBOARD, Bill.

      • Avatar Bill Collins says:

        You know I TOO, like PRETTY WOMAN, it makes me cry when the "prince" comes riding back to her in the convertible limo, and climbs the fire escape ladder!
        Sniff, sniff… of course I have been known to shed a tear while watching tv commercials.