The Wintry Mix: Movies to Watch During the Not-so-great Blizzard of 2015 (Part II)

NYC’s Great Blizzard of 2015 was decidedly a Great Big BUST instead, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still indulge in a few more wintry movies while you wait for mass transit to start back up again and roads to get cleared.  I posted the Wintry Mix Part I yesterday, so without further ado:

PART TWO

Die Another Day (2002)

The only frostier reception Pierce Brosnan has received was for his singing in “Mamma Mia”

So it’s probably not the best of the James Bond movies by any stretch, but Pierce Brosnan’s last outing as the eponymous MI-6 agent is pretty fun.  The plot gets a little complicated, but there’s a lot of business with North Korea (timely!) and a mysterious millionaire named Gustav Graves who has (wait for it) an ice hotel in addition to a super cool satellite that will obviously put the world in danger.  Come for Halle Berry as Jinx, stay for Rosamund Pike (in one of her first big roles before Gone Girl fame) as Miranda Frost, who also happens to have been trained in fencing by a character played by…Madonna.  Because why not?

The Shining (1980)

“I’d like red…rum. Get it?” (maniacal laughter)

Redrum redrum redrum.  Director Stanley Kubrick paces this horror classic perfectly, giving viewers and its star, a terrific and terrifying Jack Nicholson, an overwhelming sense of dread throughout.  It’s the rare horror film that also doubles as high, intellectual art.  Though novelist Stephen King hated what they did to it, everyone else seems to agree it’s a masterpiece.  Not recommended viewing for those who are caretakers at humongous hotels built on old Native American burial grounds.

Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

Brrrrrr

This intriguing documentary from Werner Herzog explores what it’s like living and studying at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.  Interviews with scientists, breathtaking views of the coldest continent, and cute penguins all await you in addition to a lot of life-affirming tales.  The documentary may have a chilly subject, but it will surely warm your heart (sorry, I know that one was really cheesy).

Little Women (1994)

My favorite ladies

Full disclosure: this is one of my top three favorite movies of all-time, so I’m a little biased.  In my opinion, this is the best and most loving film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel about four very different sisters’ coming of age.  The score is gorgeous, the cinematography warm, and the acting from the all-star cast is superb.  Winona Ryder scored an Oscar nomination for her layered, heartfelt portrayal of Jo, and after you wipe away your tears, you’ll see why.  And if you don’t swoon over Christian Bale’s Laurie (or at least his hair), there’s something wrong with you.

Fargo (1996)

Badass

Nothing says “happy snow day” quite like a triple homicide and a botched kidnapping in snowy Minnesota.  The Academy Award winning film from the Coen Brothers was turned into a fine TV series this past year, but start with the sometimes funny but increasingly violent film.  Frances McDormand is great as pregnant policewoman Marge Gunderson as are Steve Buscemi and William H. Macy.  Entertaining? Yah, sure, you betcha.

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The Wintry Mix: Movies to Watch During the Great Blizzard of 2015 (Part I)

New York City is about to get pummeled by what may be a historic blizzard the likes of which hasn’t been seen since 1947 (or possibly ever).  Everybody is in storm-preparation mode getting all their groceries and batteries and whatnot, but what about entertainment?  Sure, you can binge-watch all those TV shows you’ve been meaning to start OR you can check out the movies on my Wintry Mix Movie List!  Grab a blanket, some munchies, and a mug of hot chocolate and get ready to let it snow with these films (Sorry, y’all, we can do much better than Frozen).

PART ONE

Snowpiercer (2014)

Even dirty with a beard, Chris Evans is ridiculously handsome.

One of the best and most underrated movies of 2014, the film stars a bearded Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton (in an awesomely gonzo performance), and John Hurt and places them on a high-speed train that circumnavigates the globe after a global warming experiment goes wrong and kills most of Earth’s population, plunging the planet into a deep freeze. Naturally, something goes wrong on board the train, and a revolution begins.  It’s a visually-stunning movie with a timely plot and quite a twist towards the end.  I found it fresh and incredibly entertaining.  See the trailer here.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & the Wardrobe (2005)  

If this took place in 2015 instead of the 1940s, PETA would be throwing ink all over that fur.

You know the story: four siblings are sent to live with an eccentric professor in the English countryside to escape the London Air Raids during WWII and wind up stumbling into a magical world known as Narnia through a wardrobe.  Christian allegories galore plus Liam Neeson as a majestic lion.  But the real draw is Tilda Swinton (because who doesn’t need MORE Tilda in their lives?) as Queen Jadis, the White Witch, all icy bitchiness and glee.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)  

Ice ice baby…

“You see, before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did. If he weren’t up there now… I don’t think it would be snowing.”  This is the film that first introduced me to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and certainly one of their best collaborations.  Edward, a shy loner who happens to have scissors for hands, is brought to live with the suburban Boggs family and winds up falling in love with their beautiful daughter, Kim, played by Winona Ryder (Winona Forever!).  This being a Burton movie, it’s visually stylish and endearingly odd but remains one of my favorites of his cannon.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

“C’mon…kiss me!” Okay, Han.

You can’t make a list of wintry movies without including Hoth! If you don’t know the plot of this movie aka haven’t seen it, I probably am suspect of your movie tastes.  Obviously, ESB is the best Star Wars film because who doesn’t love daddy issues, spaceships being swallowed by asteroid-dwelling creatures, a green alien who speaks like Confucius, a princess and smuggler making out, and BILLY FREAKING DEE WILLIAMS IN A CAPE?!  Yeah, you know you love it or your heart has been put into carbon freeze.

The Ice Storm (1997)

Apparently, everyone had beautiful peacoats in 1973.

Ang Lee’s engrossing drama centers around a suburban Connecticut community in 1973 during a terrible ice storm where several interconnected families find their lives spinning out of control.  It’s an all-star cast, literally: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Sigourney Weaver, Katie Holmes, Elijah Wood, Allison Janney.  It’s serious and sad, and an excellent portrait of the existential crisis felt by so many in the years after the swinging sixties.

Stay tuned for part II of the Wintry Mix featuring Bond, penguins, “Heeeere’s Johnny,” and more!

2015 Oscar Nominees Viewing Guide

5:30 am has literally NEVER looked sexier

5:30 am has literally NEVER looked sexier

Happy Oscar Nominations Day!

Lots and lots of surprises today from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (that Chris Pine can still look so sexy and beautiful reading nominations at 5:30 am his time is NOT one of them). If you’ve been following the race at all this year, you likely were as surprised as me by some of the inclusions and omissions in the larger races like Actor, Actress, Director, and Picture. But fret not, children, because I think many of our favorites like Boyhood, Birdman, and J.K. Simmons are all still quite safe. I have many thoughts on the nominations themselves and what it all means, but instead, let’s talk about the important stuff…and I don’t just mean the fact Oscar night means more dreamy Brits in beautiful suits (Hi Eddie and Benedict!).

Let’s talk about what YOU beautiful people need to see before the big show on February 22. Depending on your schedule and bank account (and frankly, stamina), here’s my handy-dandy viewing guide. Start with the First Tier and as you have time, see the films in each successive tier.  BAM!


First Tier: THE ESSENTIALS

Boyhood

Birdman

The Grand Budapest Hotel

grand_budapest_hotelboyhood poster birdman

These three films are the ones you’re hearing the most about right now and likely to be the ones picking up a lot of gold come Oscar night. Birdman is guaranteed a lot of wins in the technical categories (especially cinematography) and potentially Best Actor for Michael Keaton (plus solid supporting performances from nominees Edward Norton and Emma Stone). Boyhood is the front-runner for Best Picture and honestly, Best Director, and Patricia Arquette has won pretty much every single Best Supporting Actress award this season (plus a fine supporting performance from nominee Ethan Hawke). Grand Budapest Hotel came out in March but has really picked up steam thanks to the BAFTAs and Golden Globes. It has a good shot at Original Screenplay, Costumes, Production Design, and Hair/Makeup. It’s also just really fun and original.


Second Tier: TORTURED GENIUSES (+ the Essentials)

The Imitation Game

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

whiplash-poster the theory of everything Imitation-Game-Poster

These three films also picked up several nominations and in big categories. The Imitation Game is a very fine British drama with two great performances by Best Actor nominee Benedict Cumberbatch and Best Supporting Actress nominee Keira Knightley. I’d say it has a good shot at Score, Adapted Screenplay, and Production Design. The Theory of Everything’s best shot is certainly Best Actor for Eddie Redmayne, who has been splitting the award with Michael Keaton all season. Best Actor is the most unpredictable, competitive category this year. It also features a lovely performance by Best Actress nominee Felicity Jones and a beautiful score. Whiplash is one of my favorite films of 2014, and J.K. Simmons has won every single Best Supporting Actor award this season. He will, unless something crazy happens, win the Oscar. No question. I’d also say the film has a great shot at the Sound Mixing category as well.


Third Tier: THE LADIES (+ The Essentials + Tortured Geniuses)

Wild

Still Alice

Ida

ida_ver2 still alice poster WILD_movie_poster

While Julianne Moore is most likely going to take home Best Actress (FINALLY) for Still Alice, the ladies of Wild, Best Actress nominee Reese Witherspoon and Best Supporting Actress nominee Laura Dern, do some of their very best work. Ida is the front-runner at this point for Best Foreign Film and has been an art-house mainstay for its story about a young woman about to take her vows as a nun when she learns she is actually Jewish.


Fourth Tier: RULE-BREAKERS (+ The Essentials + Tortured Geniuses + The Ladies)

Citizenfour

Selma

Foxcatcher

American Sniper

selma

Unfortunately, Selma all but got shut out of the Academy Awards this year other than Picture and Original Song, but it’s well-made, and Ava DuVernay is going to be a major player now in the directing field. Citizenfour is definitely the documentary to beat at the Oscars especially given its subject matter: Edward Snowden. After strong showings and buzz at all the major festivals, Foxcatcher lost some steam but Best Director nominee Bennett Miller pulls great performances out of Best Actor nominee Steve Carrell and Best Supporting Actor nominee Mark Ruffalo. American Sniper is late to the awards race but has gotten a recent boost of support. It’s Bradley Cooper’s third consecutive Best Actor nomination, and many feel one of Clint Eastwood’s best films in recent years. I don’t think it will pick up a ton of awards, but you never know.


Fifth Tier: EXTRAS (+ The Essentials + Tortured Geniuses + The Ladies + Rule-Breakers)

Mr. Turner

Interstellar

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Nightcrawler

Unbroken

nightcrawler

I’m actually a little disappointed Nightcrawler’s Jake Gyllenhaal didn’t pick up a Best Actor nomination this morning, but that race is so crowded with contenders, someone was going to get bumped. The film is weird and chilling, but Gyllenhaal is fantastic as is Rene Russo. Mr. Turner did very well at Cannes and picked up four nominations, but production or costume design seem like its best shots. How To Train Your Dragon 2 just won Best Animated Feature at the Globes, so I’d say it’s most likely the front-runner in that category. As for Interstellar, it’s visually stunning with a great score, so I’d look for it to be a real contender in those categories. And while Unbroken wasn’t quite the awards-magnet many hoped, its Oscar-nominated cinematographer, Roger Deakins, is beloved by the industry.

Has your brain exploded yet? If you’d rather watch the films with the most nominations, here’s the breakdown:

  • 9 nominations – Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 8 nominations – The Imitation Game
  • 6 nominations – American Sniper, Boyhood
  • 5 nominations – Foxcatcher, Interstellar, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash
  • 4 nominations – Mr. Turner
  • 3 nominations – Into the Woods, Unbroken
  • 2 nominations – Guardians of the Galaxy, Ida, Inherent Vice, Selma, Wild

Remember to drink plenty of water to offset the salt intake from all the popcorn you’re about to chow down on and be sure to give your eyes a rest once in a while. Otherwise, good luck, godspeed, and see all of you on Oscar night!

Proper movie-viewing attitude

Proper movie-viewing attitude

Oh and I’ll be live-tweeting the awards, so be sure to follow me @emmylanepotter on Twitter!

Going Solo: Movies Edition

Going to the movies solo (and I don’t mean Han Solo) can be a terrifying prospect for some.  It seems unnatural in a society where we’ve been trained to think about it as part of a classic date scenario (dinner, movie, terrible or awesome goodnight kiss) or a group activity where at least one other person is involved in the rite of watching images on a gigantic screen in a darkened theater.  And I certainly can understand the need for someone with whom to share popcorn during and discussion after.

Ridin' Solo

Ridin’ Solo

But we also live in the golden age of binge-watching where we can watch hours of television shows and movies without changing out of our sweatpants, and the majority of us participate in THAT rite alone (save for maybe a bag of our dear friend, Doritos).  I realize a night in with ye olde Netflix may seem a bit different than one out at your local movie multiplex, but with a little courage and maybe a gentle swath of mascara (if you feel like it), it’s not as different as you might think.

Since moving to New York a little over three years ago, I have become a pro at the solo movie date.  Now, I know it’s a little easier to blend in when you live in a city of nine million people, but I started going to the movies alone when I was in Oklahoma City for college, and I still managed to be an under-the-radar solo movie-goer.  So let me give you the pitch for why you should start hitting the Cineplex on your own:

  1. You always get to pick the movie. Wanna see J. Lo’s new sure-to-be-a-guilty-pleasure-but-probably-terrible-movie, the Boy Next Door?  Go for it!  No one can sigh loudly and politely yet pointedly suggest something with a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes.  Feeling more like indulging your gangster side with A Most Violent Year?  What about a Truffaut marathon at your local art-house theater? C’est bon!  Allons-y!  Going alone means you don’t have to ever compromise; your choice is the only one that matters.
  2. You always get to pick the snacks/drinks. You’re basically the Kevin McCallister of your movie going experience.  A lovely cheese pizza just for me. Or you.
    "A lovely cheese pizza just for me" = the excuse I have used when ordering pizza

    “A lovely cheese pizza just for me” = an actual excuse I have used when ordering pizza

    No judgments.  Full disclosure: one time, I snuck in a 10-piece chicken nugget combo with waffle fries from Chik-Fil-A to a Toy Story/Toy Story 2 double feature.  Because I’m a BAMF…and I was starving.  Also, you never have to share, so have a calorie fest on your own, because you can.

  3. You can wear whatever you want. Obviously, you have to learn how to not care what you look like in public, but this is the most freeing part of the whole experience.  There is no one you have to impress because you’re just sitting in the dark.  Like, who actually is going to notice if you’re in an old college sweatshirt, jeans, Converse, and no makeup?  I personally do not need winged-tipped eyeliner and red lipstick if I’m wearing 3-D glasses and watching the T-Rex attack Lex & Tim’s SUV in Jurassic Park…unless I want to feel fancier, but that decision is solely up to me.
  4. Nobody talks to you during previews. I think we can all agree we’d like to swoon over the next Avengers movie and its hunky stars without any extra commentary.  (Am I the only one who finds Mark Ruffalo CRAZY HOT as Bruce Banner?  Is it seriously just me?  And also obviously I have had several dreams involving Iron Man and Captain America…)

    OKAY BUT THE HAIR. THE SMIRK.  BRUCE BANNER/MARK RUFFALO IS A TOTAL DREAMBOAT. NOBODY TELL ME DIFFERENTLY!

    OKAY BUT THE HAIR. THE SMIRK. BRUCE BANNER/MARK RUFFALO IS A TOTAL DREAMBOAT AND NOBODY TELL ME DIFFERENTLY!

  5. You can double-feature it whenever you feel like it. Maybe you want to see Wild and then maybe you want to see Night at the Museum 3.  Tomato, tomato.  No one can stop you.

So now that I’ve told you why it’s amazing ridin’ solo (and also ridin’ Solo…wink wink), let’s talk logistics!  Here’s a little starter guide to how I personally do the whole going-to-the-movies-alone thing.  Feel free to adapt this to suit your own heart’s desires.  After all, as the wise and dreamy Dr. Ian Malcolm once opined in a dinosaur breeding lab on Isla Nublar,”Life finds a way.”  You’ll find yours.

...just like your shirt found the way to be gratuitously open to your navel later, Ian.  Thanks!

…just like your shirt found the way to be gratuitously open to your navel later in the movie, Ian. Thanks!

  1. Pick your movie(s). Remember, nobody is going with you, so you have free reign.  I actually have gotten overwhelmed before because when you don’t have to think about what somebody else wants to see, you suddenly have way, WAY more choices.  Know that you can make more than one trip or see more than one movie in a day (budget allowing).  This may sound obvious, but if you’re used to always seeing movies with other people, it might seem like a strange concept to wrap your head around.  See what YOU want to see!

    Thank you for being my movie friends, old people.

    Thank you for being my movie friends, old people.

  2. Opt for a morning showtime (before noon) when possible. In New York, it costs $14.50 for a regular adult priced show and up to $18 for an IMAX.  However, most movie theaters here in the city offer early bird prices around $8 for movie times before noon.  The great thing is most of these showings are relatively empty, so you’re guaranteed your choice of seats and an almost private viewing experience.  If you don’t have problems with hanging with the elderly, you’re golden (just like the Golden Girls).
  3. Buy your snacks/drinks outside of the movie theater. Okay, so generally, this is frowned upon, because the big corporations who own movie theater chains want you to give them as much of your money as possible (and possibly your first-born child) like the Scrooge McDucks they are.  In no world should a small Coke cost $5.25.  So I stick it to the man and hit up the Duane Reade or 7-Eleven before I go and always remember to carry a slightly larger purse/bag with me.  Since I typically go to morning movies a lot these days, I like buying a pastry and iced coffee, which costs me less than the price of a movie theater concession stand small soda.  Take a big bag and be inconspicuous.
  4. Don’t worry about being there alone. Every single time I’ve gone to the movies by myself, there have been at least one or two other people there doing exactly the same thing as me.  I don’t know about you, but I go to the movies mostly because I love movies.  Occasionally, it’s also a form of stress-relief, but that’s a side benefit.  If you’re nervous about being alone, try to focus on the fact you’re there to be entertained and engrossed in a story.  The truth is that is what everyone else is there to do, and no one is paying attention to whether or not you’re there by yourself.

    One of my favorite movies of 2014: Whiplash.

    One of my favorite movies of 2014: Whiplash.

  5. Double Feature-it on occasion. What’s better than seeing one movie alone?  Seeing two!  Now, I have been a bad girl and snuck into a second movie at larger multiplexes where it’s easier to do that (I’m a rebel WITH a cause!), but I have also simply bought another ticket to a second feature.  Recently, I saw both Whiplash and Nightcrawler back to back and realized I had unknowingly created a theme night (in this case: tales of obsession)!  Part of the fun of seeing movies this way is being able to tailor your own movie-going experience. But don’t forget we all need some sunlight!

So now you have a plan for hitting the movies on your own like a boss.  Hopefully, I’ve made you feel a little less apprehensive about leaving your house, your Doritos, and your Netflix behind in lieu of a cushy seat, large popcorn, and Meryl Streep.  It’s good to do things on your own sometimes, to be the master of your own cinematic destiny.  One last thing: enjoy yourself!

See you at the movies.  I’ll be the one clandestinely chowing down on chicken nuggets towards the middle of the theater while Benedict Cumberbatch tries to break the Enigma Code and beat the Nazis.

"Are you REALLY eating chicken nuggets right now while I act my arse off?"

“Are you REALLY eating chicken nuggets right now while I act my arse off?”