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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

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”

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”

“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”

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”

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”

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.

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