My Real Favorite Movies Part 1

Today I finished watching 2 of my favorite movies. Was it Casablanca? Was it Ben-Hur (both movies I adore). No, it was The Cutting Edge and Julie and Julia. Neither are movies you would see on top 10 lists of great films or praised for their great artistry but I love them. And it got me thinking. I think most of us have a secret favorite movies list. You know what I mean? That list of movies you actually like best but you know aren’t ‘great movies’. It’s kind of like the woman who secretly loves dime romance novels but tells all her friends her favorite book is Anna Karenina or War and Peace. It’s not that she dislikes the classics but they don’t give her quite the pleasure of her true favorites.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share with you 5 of my secret favorites and then I will continue to do more every once in a while. I’d love to hear what yours are (most of these won’t be a big shock because I talk about what I love with my friends. So not that much of a secret LOL)

You could also easily call this list- My Rewatch List. These are movies I could rewatch over and over again and never tire of (Wonder Woman would make this list but it’s pretty well loved)

You’ve Got Mail-

I had somebody once on this very blog tell me that my opinion on movies was obviously invalid because I went to BYU and loved You’ve Got Mail. I’m not sure how the math on that works out but there you go. I absoloutely adore You’ve Got Mail. It is one of the best, if not the best, remake ever made of the delightful Shop Around the Corner. It is chock full of Nora Ephron’s perfect writing. I love her commentary on everything from childrens books to leather jackets to Starbucks. I love that it is secretly a movie about work and how we get our sole value from our paid employment so frequently. I love Meg and Tom in it. I love the supporting cast. I love West Side of New York and all the stops at Riverside Park and the Gray’s Papaya. I love how it loves movies like the Godfather. I love the scene when Tom Hanks gets Rose to run the credit card through the machine and how upset Henry is. I love that Birdie had an affair with General Franco. I love that Frank wants to write a book about the Luddite movement and that he thinks it is relevant. I love that Kathleen loves Joni Mitchell and thinks of her mother when she hears River. You get the idea…I just love it and that’s that.

Home Alone-

A lot of people love Home Alone around the holidays but I love Home Alone year round. I first saw Home Alone when I was 9 years old and visiting my Grandparents for a special trip all by myself. Being independent was very important to me as a child (still is in many ways) and I completely connected with Kevin McCallister’s story and found it to be the funniest movie I’d ever seen. I remember just rolling out of my chair I was laughing so hard and not necessarily at the parts you might think. The booby traps are very funny for kids but I also thought the scene where he accidentally steals the toothbrush was funny or when he tricks the pizza delivery guy with the Angels with Filthy Souls fake mafia movie tape. “I’m going to give you till the count of 10 to get your ugly yellow no good kiester off my property…” That was hilarious to the kid me and I still think it is funny. But Home Alone wasn’t just laughs but it was also empowering to the young me. Kevin figures out how to shop for groceries, cook dinner, do laundry and save the house from burglars while he is at it. It’s the best.

Clueless-

Clueless came out the summer before my freshman year of high school and I vividly remember the experience. I watched it and not only thought it was hilarious but I felt like my world made a little bit more sense than it had before.  When Cher is talking about the boys and their baggy pants with a backwards cap ‘and we’re supposed to swoon’ I completely understood what she meant. I saw it every day! When she talked about frustrations at school or trying to fit in with friends it made sense to me. Even her getting on the freeway for the first time clicked. I was always terrified of driving and later once I had my permit my Dad took me on the freeway and he had to remind me to hold on to the steering wheel just like Murray had done with Dionne. I still love everything about Clueless. I love Paul Rudd in it. I love that it is based on Emma. I love all the hilarious lines. I love the interactions between Cher and her Dad. I love her speech about the Haitians. I love the soundtrack with all my favorite 90s songs. I just love it.

Dirty Dancing-

In fairness a lot of people love Dirty Dancing but I still feel it isn’t respected as a ‘great film’ like it should be. I like it much better than any of the Molly Ringwald coming of age comedies from the 80s. My love of Dirty Dancing is perhaps more amazing because it features a character having an abortion- a practice I abhor but the movie isn’t about that. It’s about a young girl coming to terms with the world and her own womanhood. Other people make all kinds of choices in life and part of growing up is to learn to love them regardless. This is what Baby learns. She loves Johnny and he loves her and they dance together and it changes her life. The best!

Moonstruck-

I love Moonstruck. I feel like I frequently see it come up on lists of ‘undeserved Oscar wins’ and I heartily disagree. I love Cher in this and her chemistry with Nicholas Cage is off the charts. I love how wounded he is and how they fight and the way the tension builds. I love the dialogue and when Cher says you’re “a wolf without a foot!” I love the scenes at the opera and how La Boheme makes her cry. I love the scenes with Olympia Dukakis and John Mahoney and I love when she tells Cosmo “Your life is not built on nothing.” It’s such a perfect response to a movie I love!

So there you have it! Those are 5 of my secret favorite movies. What do you think? What are some movies you love that aren’t usually listed in top 10 best movie lists? I’d love to hear.

There shall be more on this topic to come so be ready!

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November Youtube Videos

So considering I was doing Nanowrimo I think I did pretty well on my youtube channel in November.  Most of the videos I shared with you already but there are a few I haven’t.  Here you go! Would love your feedback.  If you haven’t subscribed or given thumbs up I’d appreciate it.

This video is my monthly summary of films I saw in the theater.  It was a pretty good month for us movie fans.

My Family Movie Night review of White Christmas

This is called The Chocolate tag where I get to talk about both books and movies.

My Family Movie Night Review of Chicken Run

My Family Movie Night Review of High School Musical

My Family Movie Night Review of Fox and the Hound

My Family Movie Night review of Disney Animated Short Collection

 

I have also been doing videos on my Top 50 Animated Countdown you will want to check out.

Bonus Holiday Review: Home Alone

home aloneNow that I’m finished with Scrooge month I thought I might do a few bonus holiday reviews and tonight I watched Home Alone and boy does it hold up well.  Aside from technology changes I think it could be released today.  It’s still funny, sweet, sincere and a great family film.

I have a bit of a personal history with this movie.  When we were 10 my grandparents would take us on a trip and my trip was to go to Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm and see my cousin in a choral competition with my grandparents.  It was pretty great.  Before we went down to Southern California we had a night and decided to go see Home Alone at the theater.  My parents weren’t big TV/Movie people so my movie indoctrination was fairly sparse- the occasional Disney and my recent obsession with Little Mermaid  which was released the year before Home Alone.  I certainly hadn’t seen many comedies at that point.

Here I am in 1990 on the trip I saw Home Alone.  I flew alone which was kind of brave!
Here I am in 1990 on the trip I saw Home Alone. I flew alone which was kind of brave!

So to the theater we went and I laughed my head off. It is the first movie I remember connecting with and laughing hard at.

The truth is I was a very independent kid so Home Alone was kind of my fantasy.  The idea of a kid not only getting by without his parents but defending the house and being smarter than everyone else is so appealing to kids (at least to my kind of kidlike mind). Pretty much if you want to know about me as a child watch Little Mermaid and Home Alone.  That’s the kind of independent spirit I was.  I hated to be told what to do and wanted to be taken seriously in conversation and life. My parents were wise to give me a pretty long leash.

What makes it funny is very good writing combined with the type of humor usually reserved for animation.  Road Runner or Tom and Jerry would have anvils dropped on their heads in cartoons but here is it is real people and all done by a charming little kid.

spiderI like that the movie stays grounded.  All of the stunts Kevin pulls off feel like the kind of thing a kid could do even if in reality they are not.  It’s not like he’s blowing stuff up or using chemicals a kid wouldn’t know about.  He puts ice on the staircase, puts toys and glass ornaments on the ground, makes havoc with a air rifle.   I’m sure you could tear apart things like the zipline as not being realistic but for the most part it feels plausible.  If anything it feels more grounded in reality than Columbus’ Goonies which is another child-fantasy film with heart and humor (a favorite of mine too).

home-alone-wet-banditsHe also doesn’t totally get away with it.  He comes pretty close to being hurt by the Bandits which creates a kind of nervous tension that makes the viewer laugh.

One of my favorite things about the movie is they make Kevin a capable kid.  Some of the best scenes are him going to the grocery store, doing laundry, sitting at church, meeting with Santa, and ordering pizza.  We sometimes see kids as so helpless but I bet a lot of kids in Kevin’s position would do just fine at all those tasks. They aren’t as stupid as we like to think.

home alone groceryThere is also real heart to the movie which especially for a holiday film endears the picture to all of us.  So many comedies today feel crass and then try to throw in sentiment at the end (I’m talking to you Adam Sandler).  But this maintains that kind of heart all the way through.  Even the fight between Kevin and his Mom at the beginning feels authentic to the way a family really talks and deals with one another. Again, it feels like a real family and that gives the whole crazy situation a grounding for the humor.

mom home alone 2I love the scenes with Kevin and the scary neighbor.  It’s sweet and sincere and reminds you of the fears and earnestness of children.  It could have been overly-sentimental but it is played perfectly and you have to give a lot of credit to Macaulay Culkin and Roberts Blossom who plays the old man.

home alone churchCatherine O’hara is wonderful as the Mother.  When she is pleading for help to get back to her son you wish you could help her. You not only feel her panic but her shame and guilt.  It’s very good.

home alone momI also like that Kevin does not immediately forgive his Mother.  He pauses for a second and looks at her.  You think maybe he will stomp off and then he smiles.  It is a great moment.

mom home aloneJohn Candy has a lovely cameo as a Polka band member who agrees to give Kate a ride to Chicago.  He’s joyful and sweet and wants to help a person in need, and the polka music makes it funny (of all the music I think polka is the funniest for some reason).

john candy home aloneJohn Heard feels authentic and real as Kevin’s father and the rest of the family is kind of generic Hollywood kids but it works.  My family reunions are full of chaos and I didn’t get along with my brother so those family scenes ring true for me.

1323845870Eat-Junk-and-Watch-RubbishThere are a lot of little details I like.  Such as Kevin getting his own tree and decorating it or the fact he lights candles over his mac and cheese.  It makes this little kid feel like a real person instead of a caricature.

mac-and-cheseHome Alone could have gone off the rails in so many ways but it straddles that line of slapstick, sentimentality, and a good story just about perfectly.

I give a lot of credit to John Hughes’ writing and Chris Columbus’ directing.  They both had (or have in case of Columbus) careers where they respected young people and sought to tell their stories well.

Whether it is Chris Columbus writing Goonies, directing Harry Potter movies or The Gremlins, or John Hughes with Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller they both managed to always portray children and teens as real people with their own thoughts, desires and struggles.  We take them seriously because the creators took them seriously.

In the end with Home Alone I think even if you hated all the slapstick violence you could still enjoy the movie. There is enough character development and warmth to enjoy the movie on that level alone. How many comedies can say that?

And let’s not forget John Williams’ wonderful score. He combines traditional carols, band and pop music with his own original pieces in one of the best holiday soundtracks ever.  He’s the master!

I hadn’t seen Home Alone for a couple of years and watched it last year and was really charmed by it.  So if it has been a while for you give it a watch.  Your kids will love it and you will too!