If you haven’t thrown your television out of your window recently, you might be ready to zone out to a relaxing film for a few hours. Or maybe you’re fired up and want a boost. We all deal differently, and here’s my list for various situations …
If you need help remembering why life is worth living: “Amelie” (2001) — Impish, lovely Audrey Tautou plays the title character, a lonely but resourceful French mademoiselle who finds beauty in the everyday. She also dispenses justice and improves her world on the microscale, one life at a time. It might just inspire you to help a neighbor, savor your own blessings and cut some bangs.
If you’re feeling indignant: “Idiocracy” (2005) — I’m not the first one to point out the prescience of this Mike Judge comedy. Articles have been making the rounds all year about this cult classic in which a librarian (Luke Wilson) awakes from a 500-year sleep to a foul, trashy, grim future ruled by a celebrity president. The influence of an unrepentantly crass entertainment industry on an illiterate society allows a crude and violent ignoramus to rise to power. It used to be a pretty funny movie.
Watch with your kids while crying quietly into their hair as they sit on your lap (wow, I got pretty specific there; this may have happened): “Inside Out” (2015) — Pixar’s instant classic might be animated and ostensibly for kids, but the journey of the personified emotions through the mind of an 11-year-old girl is surprisingly profound, true, gut wrenching and uplifting. The powerful, even necessary role of sadness in everyone’s life is unforgettably expressed.
If you want to experience pure beauty: Akira Kurosawa’s “Dreams” (1990) — This series of vignettes explores paintings and culture in a visually stunning experience you can simply absorb to feel yourself enriched, soothed and transported.
Speaking of transported, if you’re ready to move to Canada: I was going to say “Canadian Bacon” (1995), but the idea of starting a fake war with Canada might catch on. Maybe the 2010 flick “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” in which Michael Cera does comic book battle for his girlfriend, is a safer bet. Ideally, Canadian national treasure “Anne of Green Gables,” a beloved 1985 miniseries from an even more beloved book set on Prince Edward Island, will get you through a weekend. Fun fact: The Polish resistance handed out copies of this book to its troops during World War II because they felt Anne Shirley personified the values of individualism and hope.
If Canada isn’t far enough: “The Martian” (2015) — The power of intelligence and resilience prevails as a lone man survives a harsh climate by “sciencing the $%^# out of” his situation, which is always a good idea.
If you want to stick it to the man: “9 to 5”(1980) — A trio of very different but formidable women — Lily Tomlin as a tough, working single mom, Jane Fonda as a meek divorcee who finds her power and Dolly Parton as a sexy secretary tired of harassment — join forces to take down their horrible boss (Dabney Coleman). In his absence they transform his office for the better and their hard work is actually rewarded in a gloriously satisfying ending that includes on-site child care. It’s pretty fun to see them own their femininity and demonstrate that when they win, the whole company wins, plus there is a weed-induced dream sequence that can’t be beat. The title track is a Dolly Parton anthem for the ages.