It’s evening. The kids have finally gone to sleep after you answered your trillionth question about whether or not school will be closed. You have carefully mulled over public health crisis coverage from multiple creditable, unbiased sources (right?) as well as unfollowed or at least harshly judged your Facebook friends who diverged from whatever opinion you have formed, and now it’s time to relax. Maybe watch a movie. There are some to avoid at all costs.
Every time a hurricane forms in the Gulf, I wish I had never seen Viggo Mortensen’s 2009 “The Road.” It is the most terrifying, post-apocalyptic story I have ever watched, and the haunting images suit any impending threat to life in general. It’s particularly awful because there is a kid in it, and no matter how logically I reassure myself that whatever is scaring people will not end with me and my kids scavenging for food wearing some old tattered hoodies, living outside, trying to avoid marauding herds of murderous survivors, I often think of Mortensen, his incredible cheekbones, and a scene in which he prepares to shoot his child so these bad guys don’t eat him! That doesn’t end up actually happening, but it’s bleak, guys. Very bleak.
In “The Road,” the disaster that left America in the state it is in is not specified, but let me tell you, every time the power goes out in Midtown, which seems to be increasingly often, I think of Charlize Theron, the mom/wife of the surviving son/father pair, who is shown in a flashback giving her son a final bath in their powerless, candlelit house before disappearing forever, and it freaks me all the way out. This is why we run out and buy all of the toilet paper. For an exciting but far more soothing Mortensen excursion, his cheekbones are also in all “The Lord of the Rings” movies, and that is much more pleasantly transporting cinematic choice.
I realize that Brad Pitt looks extra hot in “World War Z” (2013) — I really like his hair longer like that — but I recommend selecting an alternate title from his handsome filmography, as this is about a rapidly spreading zombie virus that is obviously, probably, absurd, but the beginning in particular feels very realistic. The way panic spreads as he and his family start to realize their sudden and extreme danger, that weird sound in the distance and that image you see out of the corner of your eye are very effective. Again, the power is always out.
Of course, Pitt and his movie wife must run down the street holding their kids. And you might find yourself casually choosing comfortable shoes that lend themselves to sprinting from zombies after you watch it, just for good measure. This is not a healthy mental road to walk. Don’t go there. His 2005 comedic action flick “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” with future/former movie/actual wife Angelina Jolie, is sexy, amusing and highly rewatchable, unless you happen to be Jennifer Aniston.
Realism makes “Children of Men” (2006) utterly haunting. A grim but distant future is one thing, but science fiction set in the near future seems frighteningly plausible. In this case, it is a world in which women have stopped being able to conceive children, threatening the future of the human race. Julianne Moore and Clive Owen are effective and convincing as a brave pair carrying on after the death of their child, and it’s all too easy to imagine oneself trying to keep going in the dingy, dreadful aftermath of whatever bad thing changed life as we know it. Would I be as brave as they? Unlikely. Owen is also in the 2001 film “Gosford Park,” a beautifully costumed diversion that takes you to the problematic past rather than the terrifying future, and this black comedy is one of my go-to sick day movies, which is exactly the vibe we seek right now. Please note I am not actually sick.
I’m so upset just from writing this that I need to watch a cartoon, but not the 2008 Pixar film “Wall-E!” Pollution is the culprit for Earth’s downfall in that one, and while it has a happy and hopeful ending, it also makes me feel bad about all these disposable hand wipes I’m leaving in my wake, perhaps to be cleaned up by a sturdy, indefatigable little trash compacting robot like Wall-E. He spends eternity watching a musical, and we should probably be doing that right now, too. So here are a few additional alternate suggestions to quell panic:
“Singing in the Rain” is arguably the greatest movie musical, in which actors survive the seismic shift from silent to talking films, just like we will survive this scary season. “I Love You, Man” is a warm-hearted comedy about nontoxic male friendship, because no matter what changes around us, Paul Rudd will still look the same. Any Nancy Meyers movie is ideal for self-soothing — just imagine washing your hands in one of those vast kitchens! I also recommend “The Birdcage” because it is hilarious; “Amélie” because it is beautiful; and “Groundhog Day” because it is hilarious but also wise, two qualities you can never have enough of. Much like toilet paper, apparently.
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