There’s only one movie my wife and I make a tradition of watching every year: #19, Love Actually. It’s a charming romantic comedy that intertwines a number of different love stories, some happy, some tragic. We watch it during Advent. Hugh Grant’s opening words set the tone for the tale:
"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion love actually is all around."Sideways, also by Alexander Payne, is my #18. I’ve recommended this movie to people who have hated it, and I understand why. Jack, played by Thomas Haden Church, is scumbag incarnate and so utterly representational of real sorry-excuses-for-men that he can be too close for comfort. Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, wants to take his buddy Jack on a tour of wine country a week before Jack’s wedding. Suffice it to say Jack is not faithful to his fiancée during their trip. Why do I like this movie? I think because its characters are very human. They are weak, pitiful, and in some cases undeserving of happiness. Sideways is an honest film about dishonest people. I found it beautiful.
A family member who despised Sideways recommended that I see Lost in Translation, the comedy by Sophia Coppola staring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. It’s another film I loved but that some people I know really disliked. It’s about a brief but intimate friendship between two people. Their relationship reminded me of being on a retreat where I’ve met people and gotten to know them and their sorrows quite deeply in the span of only a few days before we said goodbye and went are separate ways.
Madness in Terry Gilliam films must not unwatched go. My #16 is The Fisher King, a heartbreaking and heartwarming story about sanity and madness, reality and fantasy, hatred and love. And a quest to find the Holy Grail in New York City. With drama, comedy, and symbolism, and illusions, Gilliam explores who has a more accurate sense of the truth: the typical, socially acceptable people or the insane and deranged. Here’s the trailer: