For the last year or so, my husband and I have been having these regular movie weekends with another couple. We’re all movie fanatics, but with markedly different tastes, so it’s a chance for us all to get exposed to movies we might not see otherwise. We bring snacks, pop popcorn, watch movies late into the night, then get up in the morning and watch more. It’s a great weekend, spent with great friends.
The rules (yes, there are rules, but easy ones) are simple — each of the four of us has to pick a movie that at least one other person in the group hasn’t seen. (More than one is even better.) For our first weekend, this was our only restriction, and we ended up with a perfect mix of genres: quirky independent, Hollywood blockbuster, classic black and white, and sci-fi.
Since that first weekend, we’ve added a theme each time: remakes, “weird” movies, WTF movies. The latter theme meant movie titles that elicited a WTF! from one of us when someone admitted to never seeing it. For example, if someone (like my husband) told you they’d never seen The Godfather, your response would be… WTF!! My WTF was the original Alien. We had a weekend of John Malkovich movies (THAT was awesome) and a weekend of comedies.
This past weekend, our theme was movies based on a true story — a great theme, leaving us open to all kinds of films. I chose Peter Jackson’s early film (and Kate Winslet’s first feature film) Heavenly Creatures (1994). I don’t think it was a popular choice in the group. Too much teenage-girl screaming. But I still think it’s a brilliant bit of filmmaking. I first saw this film when it came out, and was mesmerized by the relationship between the two girls, how their damaged psyches immediately connect, and how they draw each other into this spiral of obsession.
This blog provides a very interesting psychoanalytic reading of Heavenly Creatures, though I don’t think I would agree with the horror label she puts on it. This one could have easily fit our “weird” movie theme, too. The fantasy world the girls imagine for themselves is very strange, and the treatment in the film allows you to really get into their heads. It was amazing to see this film again after 20 years. It holds up well.
The other pics this past weekend were Chariots of Fire (1981), Bobby (2006), and Roswell, a made-for-TV movie from 1994, staring Kyle MacLachlan. Until recently, I only knew Kyle MacLachlan from Sex and the City, and I never much cared for his character on that show. I thought Dr. Trey MacDougal was a real milquetoast. Then I started watching Twin Peaks on Netflix, and I found a whole new respect for the man. (As an aside, I should know better than to dislike an actor because of the character he plays, but when you’ve only seen someone in one role, it’s hard to avoid.) I also became a crazy Twin Peaks fan — what a brilliant piece of bizarre comedic melodrama! — but that’s another post.
Roswell was a decent movie. They approached the story of the famed alien spaceship crash in the New Mexico desert from the point of view of one of the intelligence officers working at the military base at the time, who became a scapegoat for the event when the government decided to deny everything. The part that struck me was towards the end, when Martin Sheen’s character (who has been stalking MacLachlan’s character throughout, but never speaks until the end) goes on a tirade about how aliens have been coming to earth for centuries, and how they’ve been involved in major human events, and have manipulated human DNA… and then I wondered if we were watching some propaganda from the Scientologists.
I remember (if only vaguely) when Chariots of Fire won the Best Picture Oscar. That theme song was all you heard everywhere you went, but I was young at the time so I had no idea what the film was actually about. I found out this weekend that it’s based on the story of the UK’s track and field team at the 1932 Olympics. It was enjoyable enough, but was a bit bland for my taste. I guess that’s what “serious” movies were in the 80s. A bunch of upper-middle class straight white guys struggling to be the best in their events. Wait – there was one Jewish character. I kept hoping they would introduce a gay storyline; I swear the one athlete had a crush on his buddy. Sadly, no such story developed. And I had that music stuck in my head for days afterwards.
Bobby was not at all what I expected. I had the impression it was your standard biopic — a look at the life of an icon, beginning with childhood and ending with their last few hours. Instead, it was one of those movies with an ensemble cast that takes a number of different storylines with different characters and slowly threads them all together. Like Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, but the characters in Bobby are less screwed up. I had hoped to learn more about Robert Kennedy, both as a person and as a politician. Instead you get clips of some of his famous speeches, either on TV or the radio, as the characters go about their business at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Still, it’s an entertaining film. The best parts are probably between Anthony Hopkins and Harry Belafonte, two retired hotel workers who now hang out in the lobby playing chess.
I’m realizing I should never try to write about four or more movies in a single post. The result is too scattered, and too long. My apologies, dear reader. Our next movie weekend is going to have the WTF theme again, if we can find four movies that fit. It turns out my husband hasn’t seen Beverly Hills Cop. I like where this is headed.