Monday, March 22, 2010

Movies That Pick Me Up

 Evey: “Does it have a happy ending?”
V: “As only celluloid can deliver.”
(the movie V For Vendetta)

Not long ago Kate did a post on movies that instantly pick her up. It was such a fun post that I thought I would make my own list of movies that instantly cheer me up every time I see them. This list is by no means complete, as there are many movies that pick me up every time I see them, no matter how down I may feel (indeed, the above quoted V For Vendetta is among them); however, these are some of the films I like the best when I need a pick me up.

Arsenic and Old Lace(1944)

Short of It's a Wonderful Life, this is my favourite Frank Capra film of all time. I certainly think it is his funniest movie of them all. It is most certainly a black comedy, in which Mortimer Brewster's (Cary Grant) sweet natured aunts have a rather dark secret. It is almost one of the few American farces that works really well, with the situations set up in the first few minutes soon spiralling out of control. Of course, as with any good farce, everything turns out well in the end. The movie has a great cast, with Cary Grant in the lead, and Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre playing supporting roles. It also benefits from a brilliant script by the great Julius Epstein.

The Black Swan (1942)

This is quite simply the greatest pirate movie of all time. Set in Jamaica during the Golden Age of Piracy, the movie stars Tyrone Power as Captain Jamie Waring, a pirate who finds a crisis on his hands when England makes peace with its old enemy, Spain. The movie has plenty of derring do, with Power at his swashbuckling best. It also has what may be one of the greatest ship to ship battles of all time.

The Crimson Pirate

Quite possibly the second greatest pirate movie of all time, The Crimson Pirate is also a steampunk movie before there was steampunk. Burt Lancaster stars as Captain Vallo, the Crimson Pirate, who finds himself caught up in a rebellion. Along the way he receives some assistance from Professor Elihu Prudence (James Hayter), who has some decidedly advanced technology for the 18th century. Burt Lancaster had worked as a circus acrobat, and he puts his skills to good use in this film. The Crimson Pirate also features Christopher Lee in one of his earliest roles on film. Exciting, humorous, and filled with acrobatics and some technology far in advance of the 18th century, this movie is just plain fun.

Duck Soup (1933)

This is the Marx Brothers at their manic best. The film's plot centres on the small, bankrupt country of Freedonia, much in need of financial assistance and under threat from a takeover by neighbouring Sylvania. The comedy comes fast and furious in this film, with some of the Marx Brother's best bits, including the much imitated mirror scene. The movie clocks in only at 68 minutes, but it has enough plot and enough comedy for another three movies!

The Great Escape

Based on the true story of the mass escape from Stalag Luft III (although heavily fictionalised), The Great Escape boasts an all star cast and some of the greatest action scenes in the history of film. The Great Escape also boasts one of Steve McQueen's greatest performances, as Captain Virgil Hilts "the Cooler King." While not all of our heroes live in the end, the film is still inspiring in portraying one of the greatest moments in the history of World War II

A Hard Day's Night/Help!/Yellow Submarine

I list all of these films together because so often I watch them together, one after the other. Each one features the music of The Beatles, even if all of them do not feature The Beatles themselves in prominent roles (The Beatles did not provide their own voices in Yellow Submarine). A Hard Day's Night was the first Beatles movie, a virtually plotless film in which The Beatles travel from Liverpool to London for a TV show. The comedy is fast and frantic, with some truly hilarious lines and situations. It also features some of the best songs ever performed by The Beatles. Help! continued with the fast and furious comedy of its predecessor. It also served as a great parody of the spy films of the day, in which The Beatles must go on the run after Ringo is given the sacrificial ring of a cult parodying the Thugee. Not only are there some truly funny (and surreal situations), but Help! features one of the best soundtracks of all time. The Beatles' involvement in Yellow Submarine was minimal at best, but the film captures the spirit of The Beatles so well that is is often counted as a genuine Beatles movie. Indeed, Yellow Submarine even features the fast and frantic humour that worked so well in A Hard Day's Night and Help!, as well as some truly amazing visuals. The soundtrack could be one of the greatest of all time, featuring songs from Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.


There is a line of thought that claims that Head is nothing like the TV series The Monkees, even though it stars The Monkees. As I see it, however, there are only two real differences between the two. The first is that Head has no plot whatsoever, while the average Monkees episodes did have plots. The second is that Head is often much darker than the average Monkees episode. Beyond these facts, however, Head is in many ways very much like The Monkees. Indeed, the nature of the comedy is very much the same, with jokes coming fast and furious, accompanied by non sequiturs, sight gags, breaking the fourth wall, surrealism, jump cuts, and often strange camera angles.Head also features parodies of various film genres, something which frequently appeared on the TV series. Head is a truly surreal film, with some very strange moments (the one that comes to mind are The Monkees romping through Victor Mature's hair). It is also a very funny film with some of the best songs The Monkees ever recorded.

Hot Enough For June

Hot Enough for June was one of the earliest spy parodies of the Sixties. It is also one of the best. Much of what makes this film so great is that it doesn't simply parody James Bond, as so many films of the era did, but instead takes a jab at the classic Hitchcock spy thrillers as well. Another thing which makes this film so great is the performance of Sir Dirk Bogarde as Nicholas Whistler. As Whistler, Bogarde reacts as most of us would if caught in the middle of the spy game--he is quite out of his depth and simply trying to get out of the whole thing alive. Whistler's efforts to stay alive and in one piece lead to some truly hilarious situations, making Hot Enough for June one of the funniest spy parodies ever made.

Shichinin no Samurai (Seven Samurai)

Not only the greatest action film ever made, but in my humble opinion the greatest film ever made, period. If the plot in which seven samurai protect a village of farmers against a band of marauders seems familiar, it is because it is also one of the most influential films of all time, having been imitated endlessly. Shichinin no Samurai is not a simple minded action film, but a very intellectual film in which the villagers are no mere victims and the heroes are not always perfect. It is also one of the most inspiring films of all time, in which the often very flawed samurai ultimately become the heroes they should be. No remake, no imitator, has ever matched Shichinin no Samurai in its sheer quality as a work of art.

Singin' in the Rain

Not only the greatest jukebox musical of all time, but quite possibly the greatest musical of all time as well. Singin' in the Rain has some truly great songs, drawing upon the catalogue of songwriters Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. It also has some of the greatest dance sequence ever filmed (Donald O'Connor's "Make 'Em Laugh" sequence has to be seen to be believed). What makes Singin' in the Rain so great, however, is that it is also a very good comedy. Set in the period of transition from silent movies to talkies, Singin' in the Rain features some hilarious lines and some truly funny situations. Indeed, the script by Betty Comden and Arthur Green is so well written, that Singin' in the Rain would have been a great film without the songs and dance sequences!


Millie said...

I LOVE this list!

AAOL is just brilliantly hilarious! I just showed it to my ten year-old brother for his first recently, and he utterly adored it!


Pirate + Steam punk? I am so gonna have to see that. I've been avoiding it because Burt Lancaster drives me beserks (THAT SCARY SMILE! HAHAH!), but now I'm really gonna make an effort!

Beatles...oh yuck! ;-D

Well, at least you included Head as well! I ADORE that movie. It is so incredibly, completely random. COMPLETELY. My favorite scene is a tie between the boxing scene, "No Mickey, *I'M* the dummy. I'm always the dummy!" and the war scene. Just because every time I watch Mike (with a completely straight face) say: "He'll never make it through this intense bombardment. Nobody could." I just crack up laughing. And Davy being too short to look out over the trench...ahahah!

Whoa! Long comment, sorry! But, I really just LOVE this post!

Rupert said...

These are some excellent choices, some I whole heartedly agree with, especially the pirate flicks!

Fabienne said...

Oh I love Arsenic and Old Lace. Sets the world right every time I watch it. Just like old pirate flicks.
My all-time favourite is probably Minelli's The Pirate with Gene Kelly.

Wonderful post!