So many of my favorite movies are set in a cold, bleak winter. My favorite comedy of all-time, Groundhog Day, exists in a perpetual winter, its hero reliving the same grey, slushy day just before a blizzard. My favorite drama of all-time, Fargo, is a meditation on criminal behavior in the land of the nice, nice even though they are buried in snow and frozen with cold. Perhaps my fascination with snowy movies is the fact that I live in a place where it doesn't snow that much (with this past winter as an exception to that rule).
Of course...I've used both of those titles before, so I had to go with the rest of my brainstorm, which, believe it or not, contains several more of my favorite movies.
So, Good Thursday! New Year's Eve. The last Thursday of 2015 and for Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks this year. This week's theme...Snowy Winter Movies.
Here are my picks:
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Dir. Robert Altman, 1971
I am coming to think that being raised on Tarantino has made me more of a fan of the Revisionist than the Classicist. I recently saw his snowy winter Western, The Hateful Eight, and, as flawed as I find it to be, I still enjoyed it more than most of the traditional Westerns I've seen a la John Ford, etc.
One of the great Revisionist Westerns out there is Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Warren Beatty stars as John McCabe, who moseys into the Washington town of Presbyterian Church around the turn of the 20th Century. He quickly starts up a brothel and takes control of the town's simpleton miners. In walks Constance Miller (Julie Christie), an opium addict who wants to go into business with the newly established McCabe. Things go awry when a group comes in to buy them out. Altman shot the film in sequential order over a short time. The snow is NOT constant here, but it was filmed in the wet, Vancouver winter. And when the snow came, Altman just kept shooting. The tone of this film...cold, wintry, then snowy. The finale is one of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen. And the Leonard Cohen soundtrack doesn't hurt at all.
Dir. Ted Demme, 1996
Or maybe this is my favorite comedy of all-time... I caught this movie randomly on cable when I was in high school and never looked back. Timothy Hutton stars as Willy, a down-on-his-luck piano player, who decides to go back to his hometown for a couple weeks. Rural Massachusetts in the dead of winter. He has lost confidence in his talent and can't decide if he wants to go to the next step with his girlfriend, Tracy (Annabeth Gish). His visit affords him some bro time with his old bros, now salesmen and snow plow drivers, in Mo (Noah Emmerich), Tommy (Matt Dillon), and Paul (Michael Rappaport), who delivers one of the best-written movie monologues of all-time. This is a small ensemble movie that just works on every level and features a great supporting cast of female actors as well in Lauren Holly, Uma Thurman, Mira Sorvino, Martha Plimpton, and Rosie O'Donnell. Oh, and it makes me fall in love with Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" all over again every time.
The Sweet Hereafter
Dir. Atom Egoyan, 1997
One of the most beautiful, heartbreaking stories ever told, The Sweet Hereafter, based on an even better novel by Russell Banks, is a Canadian film that covers the aftermath of a tragedy involving a school bus wreck. A tiny town has lost its children and, thinking a lawsuit might help, lawyer Mitchell Stevens (Ian Holm) travels to the snowy town to convince the grieving to join him in class action. At the center is teenaged crash survivor, Nicole (a superb Sarah Polley), being coerced into remembering things she may not remember with an overbearing (in several ways) father at her side. Also affected is the grieving father of two lost children, Billy (an equally superb Bruce Greenwood), and the bus driver, Delores (Gabrielle Rose). This film is poetic, bleak, but satisfying in its power.