10 Great Movies To Get You Through The Next Four Years
Film is, by and large, escapism. A couple hours out of your day that you can spend in another place and time. Often times we choose to spend our time in worlds more preferable to our own, depending entirely on the taste, aesthetic and mood of the individual. We want to be somewhere else, where we don’t have to worry about our current problems, whatever they may be.
But there is more to it than that. All movies have a documentary quality to them. Snapshots of a time and place. We learn from films about how things used to be, what happened, what problems people faced and how they got through them.
10. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) – dir. Amy Heckerling, writ. Cameron Crowe
In support of a cookbook he released this year, Anthony Bourdain frequently referred to a story regarding being bullied as a child. He said that when he came home crying in the rain, his mother made him a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup with oysterettes and he described how comforting it was to him and still is to this day. He said, “It was comfort food; that is what food should be.”
Of the things people seek out in times of stress and turmoil, food is definitely high on the list. But for some, movies are even higher. Things that remind us of a safer, calmer time when there wasn’t so much to worry about or at least a place where everything is more familiar.
However, this is not a past about nostalgia. So, let’s rip off those rosey glasses with a dose of fun 80’S facts:
Fast Times was released in the early days of the Regan administration. The American people were living in constant fear of atomic war.
The world saw the beginning of the AIDS epidemic the year previous. Berlin was still divided and the USSR was still in effect. But the power of the proverbial Tomato Soup cannot be contained. Sometimes you just need something to remind you that everything is going to be ok and very few films do that as well as Fast Times.
9. Catch 22 (1970) – dir. Mike Nichols, writ. Buck Henry
Closing out our run of ‘C’ titled films on the list, is Catch 22. Based on the 1961 novel of the same name by Joseph Heller, the film tells the story of soldiers stationed on a Mediterranean air force base during World War II.
The cast of characters is large with their stories weaving in and out of one another all the while jumping back and forth in time. Reading the book first would not be a bad idea, although not entirely necessary as Nichols and Henry were able to adapt the story and present it in a manner that is pretty close to the feel and flow of the novel.
The story primarily follows the experiences of Bombardier John Yossarian (Alan Arkin) as he fights to get out of the war by whatever means necessary (mostly Section 8). After talking with Doc Daneeka (Jack Gillford) early in the movie, he learns of something called a Catch 22. In order to be grounded from flights you have to be crazy and ask to be grounded but, “Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”
The story continues with Yossarian trying to escape his military duties or at least find some sort of port in the storm. Meanwhile, Captain Orr (Bob Balaban) crashes his plane into the ocean during every mission and Lt Milo Minderbinder (John Voight) is getting insanely rich by selling and trading things likes eggs, cotton, and the pilot’s parachutes on the black market.
All of these characters have found themselves in a terrifying situation which, due to ridiculous amounts of red tape, is virtually impossible to get out of. But despite their odds, they must find some sort of way to survive because, as they are told by a man, “It’s better to live on your feet than to die on your knees.”
8. Che (2008) – dir. Steven Soderbergh, writ. Peter Buchman & Benjamin A. van der Veen
This film is probably the most standout on the list as it, on the surface, is the least like any of the other films previously mentioned. It is a Steven Soderbergh movie about Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevera. Whether you are familiar with their work or if you know nothing about either of them, it is an odd pairing to say the least, but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.
There is nothing that the author of this article can contribute to the plot or events of the film that hasn’t been explained in its whopping collective four and a half hour runtime. Therefore, the reasoning behind why this film is on the list is what will be the focus. Over the course of the film the villainized portrait of Che familiar to many is missing. Instead we see the story of a man, who despite his background and upbringing sets out to do what he thinks is right no matter the cost.
Such stories are not only cherished but championed in American storytelling. Made ever more poignant, by the inevitable downbeat of a conclusion. No matter your opinion of Che Guevera or the events of the Cuban and Bolivian Revolutions, there are core values, principals and beliefs to this film and its characters that are not unfamiliar to many Americans or beyond commendable.
7. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) – writ. & dir. Steven Spielberg
Close Encounters is to The Crazies what Jaws was to low budget “when animals attack” movies like Frogs and Willard. Whether consciously or unconsciously Spielberg took a pre-existing subgenre of film and blew it up to create a story on a larger scale but with the same general premise.
With all this being said, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that Close Encounters is a rip off of The Crazies. Heavily inspired by? It wouldn’t be surprising. These two films share some very distinct similarities of martial law and quarantine as a government cover up and civilian escape from it to seek the truth, but are two independent works. They also make a good double feature line up.
After electrical lineman Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) is taken for a makeshift carnival ride inside of his pickup truck as the result of encountering rogue lights from a Bob Segar concert in the sky, he becomes obsessed with sculpting a weird tree stump like shape out of everything. His obsession soon drives away his wife his kids leaving him alone to sculpt a ten foot high version of the object in his living room.
While sculpting, he sees reports of a train carrying nerve gas derailing near Devils Tower (which looks a lot like the thing he’s been compulsively sculpting for the last several days) in Wyoming. He immediately takes off for the site despite reports of military evacuation and quarantine where he meets up with other people who have been having the same visions he has.
After a series of blockades, gas masks, hazmat suits, and bureaucratic road blocks he reaches Devils Tower where the government has set up a base of operations to communicate with extraterrestrial visitors, coordinated by French scientist Claude Lacombe (François Truffaut) and his interpreter David Laughlin (Bob Balaban).
This film is actually more of a one two punch of some of the themes we already discussed in both Natural Born Killers and The Crazies. In Close Encounters, the news made reports of a potentially dangerous nerve gas leak. In the end, they wound up being the unknowing puppets of the government which was covering up a different, more historic and substantially less life threatening event.
While some of the themes are similar, the overall tone of the film is far less sinister than Killers or Crazies adopting the bittersweet tone of the song When You Wish Upon A Star (which Spielberg cited as a main influence when writing the script). However, the ultimate message is still there: you know they’re not telling you the truth, but why?
6. The Crazies (1973) – writ. & dir. George A. Romero
This is a different breed and caliber of excellent biting satire. The Crazies was generally ignored and widely forgotten for decades until a subpar remake of the same name elbowed its way into the mainstream back in 2010. However, the original was, by that point, so obscure that most people were not aware (and still may be) that what they saw almost seven years ago was in fact a remake. If you have seen the 2010 Olyphant Hindenberg, consider this, forget that and hitch a ride in the Wayback machine to 1973.
America is still hot and heavy in the throws of Vietnam, but the events of Woodstock are fading memories. Newspapers are still printing articles regarding the Watergate scandal. US Citizens are moving from scared and hopeful to jaded and cynical. With all this in mind, The Crazies is a rather rational reaction to the political and social climate of the times.
When an experimental bio-weapon referred to as TRIXIE is accidentally spilled into a small town’s water supply, some of the locals begin to go…well crazy. At this point, military officials and soldiers in hazmat suits swoop into the town and seem to almost go out of their way to make everything worse.
A couple of ex-Green Berets try to make a run for it and escape across the countryside to avoid town wide martial law and quarantine. What results is a lot of unnecessary chaos and civilian death because the government won’t admit they are wrong. Sound familiar?
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