Housebound and down?
In my youth, when we were lucky enough to be home from school on a snow day, we used to go outside and play.
Like Peter, the hero in the Caldecott Award winning book "The Snow Day", by Ezra Jack Keats, the day was filled with snow drifts to climb, snow men to create with Promethean prowess, snowball battles to start (and avoid!), loose snow to dislodge from tree branches with a few thwacks of a stick, and snow fortresses to build.
Now that I'm old(er), frolicking in a snowbank to imprint a snow angel has become a less attractive proposition.
Shoveling the driveway and clearing cars of snow and cracking the ice-crystal shell is work-out enough.
With the rest of the day to spare—and a tired slate of television programs to avoid, from judge shows, Springer knock-offs and daytime talk programs, to religious "news" what's left of the Soap Opera, there is literally nothing on broadcast television for someone with a high school education to watch on a weekday. (Other than snow coverage?)
What better time to fire up the fireplace, bust out the Roku or order up some on-demand movies for a snowy day?
Christopher Nolan's obsession with snow surfaces in many films, including Alaska-set Insomnia and Bruce Wayne's trek to a Himalayan monastery in Batman Begins. But it is in the depths of Fisher's ice fortress dream that Inception discovers the barren core of their unwitting mark's soul.
Two words: wood chipper.
The Ice Storm
Ang Lee's note-perfect deconstruction of mid-70s American suburbia, set the stage for American Beauty's Oscar win two years later. Top notch performances by Tobey Maguire, Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver and Christina Ricci all framed by the Frederick Elme's brilliant cinematography, are framed by the frozen, crippled landscape that surrounds them like fossilized insects encased in amber.
So often parodied—in a Verizon ad?, in a search engine spot?, as a movie trailer for family comedy?—it may be difficult to apprecaite this film on its own terms. But take another look, with fresh, unbiased eyes, and the film will still scare the shit out of you. Stanley Kubrick's haunting adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining, the snowy desolation of a remote New England resort transforms the landscape into a fifth character,—in the end, it's the snow that killed the beast.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
No arguments, please. George Lazenby (and he's on Twitter) is the best Bond. This is the best Bond film. Perhaps it is because of the one-and-done novelty of the Australian actor gives the film a unique quality, or perhaps it is because he rocks a kilt, or perhaps it is because Bond falls in love and (gasp!) ties the knot...or perhaps it is the epic ski sequence in this film—he is even skiing on the poster! Forget the shannanigans (what's in that backpack, Roger?) of the opening ski chase from The Spy Who Loved Me, once you've seen George in action, you'll agree nobody does it better.
The Gold Rush
He eats his shoe, takes the form of a giant chicken, and in one of the Little Tramp's greatest little moments, Chaplin makes dinner rolls dance with nothing more than a pair of forks, and the grace of a ballerina.
Nanook of the North
One of the first great documentary films is also one of the first great "mock-docs" (See Dean Duncan's essay for a detailed discussion.) Robert Flaherty's landmark ethnographic film chronicling the life of an Inuit patriarch and his family's struggles through the harsh Canadian winter in Hudson Bay remains a fascinating voyeuristic experience, and proves far more entertaining than an episode of "Sarah Palin's Alaska," any day. Thanks to Criterion for the amazing restoration and bonus materials.
Encounters at the Edge of the World
As much as I love March of the Penguins, nothing trumps Werner Herzog's piercing documentary probe into the lives of people who live on Antarctica. These shots of a "deranged penguin, headed towards certain death," are Herzog's antidote to the "fluffy penguins" featured in the popular French film. The individuals he captures are equally off-kilter and fascinating. Herzog's narration (referenced in a recent posting about Christmas memes) is colder than anything shown inside the frame.
The Empire Strikes Back
One can question the wisdom of a War Machine whose war machines have such obvious flaws. (All you need to do is trip their legs? Really? While you're at it, why not design a Death Star with a fatal flaw that it can't be taken out with one judiciously placed swamp-rat shot?) Instead of outsourcing to the loony toons at Acme for all their engineering solutions, the Empire really should consider Halliburton. Nevertheless, this battle sequence on the snow-covered planes of planet Hoth remains one of the most visually stunning sequences in the entire Star Wars saga. To me, this film will always be, "The Second One."
Let the Right One In
Bergman meets Wes Craven in this taut psychological drama set against an ice-cold Swedish winter, where a series of murders form the backdrop for the unlikely friendship between a loner outcast school boy, and a young vampire girl. Rocks the shit off of Twilight, and is edgier and more interesting than "True Blood."
Got a few hours to kill? At a mean 192 minutes, and shot in Panavision® anamorphic scooe, there is nothing lean about David Lean's epic adaptation of the Russian classic Dr. Zhivago. Recommending this for home viewing is heresy to some, but when the roads are treacherous, and you're housebound from snow, we're willing to make an exception.
Like Lean's epics, Akira Kurosawa's films should be seen on the big screen to be truly appreciated. This trailer from the period is so dated, I couldn't resist the opportunity to add it to the list: "Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Siberia's majestic wilderness, this story of an Army engineer and his guide is told on an intimate, human scale. Side by side, they battle natures savage forces and its infinite mysteries...."
John Carpenter's claustrophobic "hell-is-other-people" story remakes the Howard Hawks 1951 B-picture through the filter of Ridley Scott's first Alien film. Extra dose of suspense. Extra dose of violence. (Side note: Another awesome trailer from the period)
Hot Tub Time Machine/Better Off Dead
So, for those who like their John Cusack (also on Twitter) ski comedies in their old school packaging, there's the original, Better Off Dead ("You say the best skier in town just ran off with your girlfriend?"). And for the post-modernists among us, there's Hot Tub Time Machine.
I miss Stefan's Vintage Clothing!
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