catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 1 :: 2014.01.10 — 2014.01.23


Comfort films

I return to certain movies the way I crave mashed potatoes at certain times, for comfort.  Because I’ve seen them so many times, watching one again is like dipping back into a story I’ve been part of a long time.  I know large chunks of the scripts, not because I ever set out to memorize them but because I just kept listening until some of the language became mine.  It’s the same way I learned the Lord’s Prayer as a child in church: repeated exposure and a certain cadence that stuck without purposeful effort on my part.

Looking at my list, it would seem 2009 was a banner year in filmmaking.  Maybe.  I’ve been traveling with Tootsie and The Goodbye Girl for a long time, though neither is the oldest film on the list.  I suspect if I were to re-make this list in ten years, some of these movies would remain and others might fall away.  But for now, these are the ones I’m still spending time with and the ones I recommend to you. 

Tootsie (1982)

Of course no one can believe Dustin Hoffman as a woman — there isn’t enough makeup to cover his every-o’clock shadow.  But it works because his drag opens the door to seeing the sexes, sexism and sex differently than he does as his anxious, frantic “real” self.  “I just gotta learn to do it without the dress.” 

The Holiday (2006)

Though the romantic love stories are elsewhere, the best relationship is a friendship between Kate Winslet and Eli Wallach. Wallach plays a retired Hollywood screenwriter who encourages Winslet’s character to become the leading lady in her own story by prescribing old movies with female heroines full of gumption.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Go on, test me.  I might know this one better than the Lord’s Prayer.  Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner made a masterpiece, and Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan hit it out of the park.  I know: mixed metaphors.  You’ll forgive me after you see this.

Julie & Julia (2009)

This one’s a love letter — to food and the joy of creating and feasting, but especially to marriage.  What does it take to sustain a relationship?  How do partners support one another and work together to realize dreams?  How much of one person’s success is his or hers — and how much is created and nurtured through the partnership in marriage?   

It’s Complicated (2009)  

I dream of making chocolate croissants in a gorgeous bakery at night while a peppy French soundtrack plays.  I also dream of having a house like Meryl Streep’s — even before the renovations.  I do not dream of her complicated relationships, but I did enjoy watching her come to terms with her divorce, her empty nest and where to go next.

The Goodbye Girl (1977)

Forced into sharing an apartment, Richard Dreyfuss (an actor new to the Big Apple) and Marsha Mason (thrown over by one too many actors) spar with Neil Simon’s snappy dialogue, but end up kinda liking each other.  Favorite line by Dreyfuss, as Mason whines about a purse-snatching and the crappy luck she has whenever an actor is in her life:  “I really don’t think those guys robbed you because I’m an actor.”

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Screwball comedy, a cast list from Hollywood’s golden era and Barbara Stanwyck at the top of her game.  She plays a popular women’s magazine columnist who writes about her life as a wife, mother and homemaker on a farm in Connecticut — only she’s a single woman in New York City who can’t boil an egg.  It all starts to fall apart — and come together — when she’s forced into inviting her editor and a whole passel of others over for Christmas at the farm.

Bull Durham (1988)

I cannot watch the managers and team huddle on the pitcher’s mound during a baseball game without thinking what they’re really talking about is women’s underwear, breathing through their eyelids and what to get the new couple for their wedding.  Kevin Costner hit his stride in this one and his “long, slow, deep, wet kisses that last three days” speech is still fine.

The Proposal (2009)

The only thing that can make Sandra Bullock better is Ryan Reynolds.  And Betty White.  It’s not really filmed in Alaska, but it passes well.  Superior chemistry and great physical comedy.

The Answer Man (2009)

Jeff Daniels made me laugh from the first word.  He plays a cranky reclusive writer with writer’s block, existential issues and a bad back.  What comes looking for us when we don’t want to be found? 

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