This is happening, people. Apocalypse approaches (What type? Maybe one of these?) and I have time to get into a bunker, but I only have time to find seven movies to bring with me. Seven movies to take with me into the rest of my lonely, miserable, purpose-questioning existence.
(Incidentally, this is #36 in a series of 47 posts about movies, with topics selected by my friend, each given to me after the previous one is written. For more information, check out #1 here.)
The first thing I asked the friend who hands out these assignments was who am I in this bunker with? Am I alone, or with my family? We eventually decided that I was alone, because if I was with my family, then I wouldn’t really be picking things for myself. I’d be trying to think mostly about what my children would enjoy, either now or into the future.
So the scenario is that I am stuck in this bunker alone, with little other entertainment than the 7 movies I’ve selected. For peace of mind, I’m just going to assume that my wife and children and many friends are all in another bunker nearby, living out as good an existence as possible. I’m separated from them because of the radiation or whatever, but they are doing all right. Maybe they are all stuck inside of something akin to an Asian Mall, which basically function like self-sufficient city-states. There my children can live, get educated, go to church, play games, watch a lot more than 7 movies, make friends with the other survivors, and basically enjoy all the benefits that high-density retail have to offer.
Anyway, back to my seven films. As I decided on these, I found myself drawn to comedies primarily. I suppose life under these circumstances is already full enough of sadness, heartache, and drama that I’m not really looking for much more (with one major exception). Mainly, I’m looking to smile and laugh and to be reminded of the good things in life, the things we’ll try to re-create once me and the other survivors are able to emerge from our bunkers and reclaim our planet.
Summer Time Machine Blues (2005 – directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro)
Many people who know me well will not be surprised that this is the first film I thought of when pondering this topic. This Japanese science fiction slapstick comedy is one of my favorite films, and while there are others that I think are ultimately better, there are few I find to be more re-watchable. And for this set of circumstances, “re-watchability” is key. I’ve written about why I enjoy this film so much many times before (most recently here), but suffice to say that it’s an intricately plotted story with a satisfying payoff and lots of smiles and laughs along the way. And who knows, maybe if I watch it enough I’ll eventually learn Japanese.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016 – directed by Taika Waititi)
Another movie I’ve been raving on about for a while now, this one is a quirky, clever comedy about two mismatched protagonists (a foster kid and his gruff caregiver) who find themselves forced to work together to survive both the wilds of New Zealand and escape from the police and an overzealous Child Services officer. It’s a great movie that offers brings a lot of joy. Plus, in the cold, sterile environment of my apocalyptic bunker, it’ll give me the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery of New Zealand.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000 – directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen)
Yet another obvious one for me, this is one of my favorite movies, and my clear favorite from its directors. George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson play three fugitives from a chain gang who escape in search of a treasure. The movie offers a bizarrely-slanted view of reality, with the men encountering situation after situation, character after character, who are funny, surprising, quirky and downright weird. I can see this movie wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it hits all the right notes for me, including a surprisingly heartfelt bit where the main character cries out to God in the face of his impending doom. And since I’m apparently alone in this bunker, the movie is perfect for me.
Singin’ in the Rain (1952 – directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly)
I’ve long maintained that Singin’ in the Rain is my favorite movie, and although familiarity has bred…well, not contempt, but perhaps a little disinterest…it has an enduring appeal that makes it an obvious choice for this post. The movie is funny, but also full of a lot of great dancing from some extremely talented performers. And it puts all of this on top of a story that is nicely layered, combining its story of the film industry making the transition to sound pictures with the increased intimacy that comes with romance. Plus, in a way it’s the movie that taught me to love and enjoy movies, so in including it I’ll be forever reminded of the simpler, happier times in my pre-apocalyptic youth (if only I’d known what was coming, I’d have lived life more to the fullest, and would not have wasted so much time on ultimately empty experiences like watching TV and blogging).
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944 – directed by Preston Sturges)
Speaking of movies that make me laugh, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. It’s a screwball comedy by the great Preston Sturges, about teenager Trudy Kockenlocker who convinces Norville, the oafish boy who likes her, to help her get to a dance party with a bunch of departing soldiers without her father knowing about it. Once out, she ditches Norville and ends up getting drunk and dancing with the soldiers all night…and also getting married to one of them! More than that, she’s pregnant. She’s terrified of how her father will react, and because they decided it’d be funny to use fake names on the marriage license, she has no idea who she got married to (it was something like “Razziwazzi” is all she can recall). Hilarity and hijinks ensue. Preston Sturges was a master of juggling bizarre situations, snappy dialogue, and memorable characters, and he’s in fine form with this masterpiece of a comedy.
The Apartment (1960 – directed by Billy Wilder)
The Apartment is perhaps the least escapist of all of the film’s on this list, but though it does delve a bit into the darkness of people, it never gets lost in there, and ultimately pulls together quite a positive and uplifting ending. The story is about C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon), a low level executive who finds favor at his work thanks to the fact that he has an apartment in the city that his bosses can use to carry on their extra-marital affairs. He tolerates this situation until the girl that he likes (Shirley MacLaine) discovers that she’s just the latest in a string of affairs for the company’s personnel director (Fred MacMurray) and attempts suicide in Baxter’s apartment. The movie is a strong character study for its three leads, and develops a great rapport between Lemmon and MacLaine. The fragility that they have as people makes their romance all the more satisfying.
The Dark Knight (2008 – directed by Christopher Nolan)
The one non-comedy on this list, but I figured I should have at least one superhero-related thing to bring along with me, that being such a big deal for me and all. I considered The Avengers as maybe the most enjoyable such film to ever come out, but in the end I went with Christopher Nolan’s more layered and troubled take on Batman. It’s a toss-up whether I actually like this movie better than Batman Begins or not, but I went with it because the story of Batman’s battle with the Joker and later Two-Face takes us on a journey that is more epic, and ultimately both more challenging and more complete, even though it ends on a cliffhanger of sorts. Heath Ledger is of course outstanding in the film, Aaron Eckhart is not perfect as Two-Face but he’s the best we’ve seen so far, and Christian Bale is still my favorite Bruce Wayne.
Considered by Rejected: Lots of other movies that I call favorites, like LA Confidential, Apollo 13, Coherence, Dark City, Some Like It Hot, Jaws, The Great Escape, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The General and more they felt like they’d have less to offer in these circumstances. If the original Star Wars trilogy or Lord of the Rings counted as one movie, I might have picked them just for how long and immersive they are.