The Movie Cure

 Posted by on May 3, 2013 at 12:49 pm  Film, Mad Men, Season 6
May 032013

MM_605_MY_1217_0734aEverybody likes to go to the movies when they’re sad.

– Bobby Draper, The Flood

He’s very young, but Bobby Draper is right: there’s nothing like a good movie when you’re wrecked.

The great gift of the movies is oblivion. Roger Ebert once said, “If a movie is really working, you forget for two hours your Social Security number and where your car is parked.” When your own life becomes a problem you can’t fix, you need the kind of mental transport only movies can provide.

Don and Bobby made a great choice with Planet Of the Apes: it’s hard to beat science fiction for meaningful escapism. When it’s my bad day, I tend to look for a really good disaster movie, preferably something with a touch of liberal angst. (I could have sketched out the plot for The Day After Tomorrow myself.) When I was grieving the loss of my Dad in late 2011, Contagion was perfect. The whole world’s getting sick and dying, and Gwyneth Paltrow started it: even on a good day, that story wins.

The best kind of disaster flick has a timer. “Day 2,” it starts: things are headed downhill already, there’s nothing we can do. It’s got a downward momentum that’s speedy and solid: that guy on the bus is gonna get it, the skinny-dipping girl’s an idiot for being out that far, and just look at this fool on the roof of the Capital Records building! Who goes out to greet the alien invaders with a welcome sign?

In my kind of movie, you know all along — however it ends, whether Nicole Kidman becomes one of the pod people or the government epidemiologist gets his dose of the vaccine — you’re going to figure out what went wrong. It’s too late for the poor dead people in the movie, but you’ll sure as hell never forget to wash your hands again.

In early 1989, when I was dealing with the death of a friend and trying to finish my Master’s degree, Die Hard fell a bit short of the mark. (I prefer it when the source of the disaster is distant and indifferent, like God. No real villains, few heroes.) But the classics always work: to this day, when I’m sick I only want to watch Jaws.

What about you, Basketcases? What’s your popcorn flick when the world is going to hell?


  43 Responses to “The Movie Cure”

  1. Following the Patriots Day attack in Boston, I found it personally important to simplify my actions and maintain the course.

    In that light, I find value in the clarity of purpose expressed by Hondo Lane in the 1953 movie Hondo: “A man ought to do what he thinks is right.”

  2. As you know, Birthday Girl, my escape is international film. Give me something “foreign” in a language I can’t understand, with subtitles, and I’m intrigued. TO just mention one I’d say Kurosawa’s “Dodes’kaden” which is Japanese for “clickety-clack” the onomatopoeic sound of an imaginary train.

    And you name-checked the late, great Roger. Hugs!

  3. Apocalypse Now (Redux, of course) — it has everything. Plus it gives perspective — once I’ve seen a cow slaughtered on film my life doesn’t look so bad. 😛

  4. Top Hat. The world is made of marble and feathers, everyone dances, and all problems are just misunderstandings.

  5. Any movie where Bette Davis walks out on George Brent!
    Any movie where Joan Crawford toss back a few and wears wide shoulder padded mink coats.
    Any movie where Gable grabs a dame and plants one right on her kisser (I melt)

    I don’t need to have a tragedy to turn to those flicks…I just prefer them to the stuff that is on nowadays.
    ‘cept madmen.

    In fact, I have 15 tons of cotton Spring clothes I want to run the iron over so I will be watching Diner at 8 and Run Silent Run Deep. The ironing won’t be so bad. Life is good with a movie.

  6. Wallace and Gromit ….ANYTHING!

    Or Muppets, especially those non-talking chickens.

    And if I could go camp out at Pixar I would.

  7. Anything by the Coen Brothers but if I’m really down I prefer the funny/silly ones like Lebowski, O Brother or Raising Arizona. Intolerable Cruelty is under appreciated in my book.

    Have a great B-Day Anne B!

    • “TEN-zing NOR-gay.” :)

    • Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy = best Coen Bros. character ever … which is saying a lot.

    • I could watch Coen Bros all day. A couple of random favorites:

      From Miller’s Crossing:

      “It’s gettin’ so a businessman can’t expect no return from a fixed fight. Now, if you can’t trust a fix, what can you trust? For a good return, you gotta go bettin’ on chance – and then you’re back with anarchy, right back in the jungle.”

      Nathan Arizona Sr. dealing with the FBI:

      “That’s your forte, ain’t it? Chasing down crooks and Commies and shit. That’s your whole God-damn raison d’etre, ain’t it?”

      “I don’t know what his damn jammies looked like… they had Yodas and shit on them!”

      “Dammit, are you boys gonna chase down your leads or are you gonna sit drinkin’ coffee in the one house in the state where I know my boy ain’t at?”

  8. I love that Bobby got more screen time besides being yelled at by Betty. I also love what movies/TV does to an individual. It takes your mind off of a lot of things, its a bonding tool.

    I never really got along with my mother but TV/movies bonded us, especially the old TV/movies which is why I LOVE vintage. It also helped me get over my ex boyfriend when I was in college and took my mind off of the awful current events (bombings, shootings, bad economy, etc).

    My go to movie is Black Sheep with Chris Farley & David Spade, Clueless, First Wives Club, any brat packer movie, Fellini/Mastrianni/Goddard/Kar Wai film, Scorcese or Hitchcock film (I LOVE to go back in time).

  9. On the lighter side – Some Like it Hot, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

    Darker – Lolita (Kubrick’s – every time I think of seeing the remake – I watch his)

    In Between – Casablanca

    Musicals – The Blue’s Brothers, My Fair Lady

  10. Two very different Peter O’Toole movies: The Lion in Winter (fabulous dialogue) and My Favorite Year (also great lines: “Ma, he’s not a river.” “”Welcome to our humble chapeau.” etc.)
    Any version of Pride and Prejudice.
    Barefoot in the Park.
    To Kill a Mockingbird.
    The Women (original version, not the remake).
    Dinner at Eight.

  11. At the risk of being odd man out, I escape to music not movies and it almost always is Bruce Springsteen. I have an ipod set up with just his music on it. His lyrics do tell a story much like a movie and you could run a theme through them just like the movies.

    • I also go for music. When I’m sad, I don’t have patience for the movies, but music will work like a charm. My go to artist in times of need is Morrissey, but I let him share the spotlight with a few others, the Boss among them.

      • Dire Straits works too: “Telegraph Road”. And Pink Floyd: “Comfortably Numb”, and especially “Wish You Were Here”.

    • For you it’s Bruce, for me Gordon Lightfoot. Hundreds of great songs to choose from (most people can name 2 or 3 but folks, his catalog is way deep). Nobody does love lost/longing songs like Gord.

    • If I’m in a really bad move, and don’t have time to watch a movie, I go for the soundtrack to “That Thing You Do.”

  12. To lift my mood, nothing can beat Holiday (1938). To me, Grant & Hepburn trumps Tracy & Hepburn (though Pat and Mike is pretty great, too.) I want every filmmaker who has so debased the romantic comedy genre over the last 20 years to be forced to watch Holiday until they either get the idea or are shamed into stopping.

    Also, anything with The Marx Brothers.

    • Thank you! I love Holiday, and agree that Hepburn and Grant were a great pair! Cary Grant was an acrobat and stilt walker early in his career, and it is fun to see him do some of his routines in Holiday. Reminds me that I need to pull that gem off of the shelf this weekend…

  13. I don’t really have a go to movie, although I can remember specific times when things weren’t going well:

    In middle school, when I was cut from the tennis team, I went home and watched “West Side Story.”

    In high school, my grandfather had a terrible fall. My mother went to be with him, while I stayed at home, so there would be someone to answer the phone in case relatives called asking for information. I watched “Cry Baby.”

  14. For the most part, I need movies that will take me out of this time too — 1940’s to 1960’s romantic comedies with great fashion (think Doris Day) , anything pretty and bright (MGM musicals) anything with The Beatles, especially A Hard Day’s Night, Singin’ In the Rain, Wizard of Oz, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Philadelphia Story, The Lion in Winter, The Women, Austin Powers (the first one), and A Man for All Seasons,The Incredibles, and anything with The Marx Brothers (Day at the Races, Night at the Opera, Duck Soup)

  15. The Hunt for Red October – Tremors – (the entire miniseries of) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – Sita Sings the Blues – The Jane Austen Book Club – A Dark-Adapted Eye – (the original) The Golden Bowl – National Treasure – (and my guilty pleasures): Dante’s Peak, The Core, and Eight-Legged Freaks.

    It all depends on how bad I feel.

    • Oooohhh, Dante’s Peak is a good bad one. :)

      My Dad’s favorite movie genre was espionage, and I find that these work just as well for me — if not better, in many cases. Dad would have loved Argo, and I look forward to adding it to the bad-day rotation. He also liked Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and loved one of my great favorites for all moods: Three Days of The Condor.

      It’s hard to beat any of these.

  16. Here’s a movie that was released in late 1968, Otto Preminger’s “Skidoo.”

    It’s pops up on Turner Classic Movies every so often and it’s a truly bizarre piece of cinema!

    I could attempt to explain the plot, but when you have a film directed by Preminger that stars Jackie Gleason (who takes LSD) and Carol Channing (singing and dancing in her underwear), with Groucho Marx (in his last movie role) featured as the head of an organized crime mob, who goes by the name “God,” I’m not sure anything I could tell you, would help in making any sense of it.

    Instead, check out this interview with actor Austin Pendleton, who was also in the film …

  17. Breakfast at Tiffany’s—party scene only, on a permanent loop.
    Guys and Dolls. What is it about Sky Masterson that makes me feel like him so much?

    Otto mezzo. Once Upon a Time in the West. C-l-a-u-d-i-a C-a-r-d-i-n-a-l-e.
    I just lost my train of thought.

  18. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not….sigh

    • Oh, that’s my movie. To Have and Have Not is actually the movie for me, the one that made me a movie fan, that made movies really mean something to me.

  19. I love to escape into a movie, but I waste a lot of time figuring out which new film might be good enough (how will I know ahead of time?) For some reason, there aren’t many films I want to watch more than once–but there are a few–“Witness” (Harrison Ford), “Fargo,” “Rear Window,” maybe a couple more…. Now I know that I should buy copies of the few films that are So thank you, Anne B., for asking this question. And then, thank you for the suggestion of disaster films–I think those might work for me as well!

    More learned from the best site on the Internet 😉

  20. “…few films that are on that list.” Sorry.

  21. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sound of Music (I adore Julie Andrews), Guys and Dolls, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Pride and Prejudice (with Keira Knightly), and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

    My freshman year of college I struggled with a bad case of the blues. These movies got me through.

    • For me it was “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” – I kid you not. I suppose my problems seemed so much less than those of George and Martha after spending a few hours with them, lol. In any event I was profoundly grateful at a time when wracked by depression as a college junior. Whether is was just good timing or catharsis, my depression began to lift after that evening at the movies.

  22. Some wonderful, super-cheesy classics when the world is closing in:

    “Born to Be Bad”
    “Written on the Wind”
    “Imitation of Life”
    “Stage Door”
    “The Women”
    “The Best of Everything”
    “Stella Dallas”

    Anything with Robert Mitchum in it, especially “Night of the Hunter”…or Van Johnson (“Brigadoon”, “Miracle in the Rain”)….


  23. I’m watching 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time right now, and see it came out in 1968 too. Wonder what Don will make of it (yes I know he’s fictional).

    • I imagine Roger would see it first, and encourage everyone at the office to see it. I’m not sure if Don would like. He has electic taste in movies, so it’s hard to say.

  24. Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors” is my favorite movie ever. He has a lot of movies that I like. “Hannah and Her Sisters” is a close second. “Manhattan Murder Mystery” is a great one to see if you want to laugh and be cheered up.

    Albert Brooks’ movie “Mother” always makes me LOL.

    • “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Hannah and Her Sisters” are both on my Top Ten Movies List.

      Some others: “A Thousand Clowns,” “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “Being There,” “Dr. Strangelove” and “A Clockwork Orange”

  25. My ultimate is Cinema Paradiso!

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