Winter is … actually, I guess it’s pretty much here.
Though technically the first day of the winter season was yesterday, the frosty goings on of nature as of late have left little doubt that we here in the great Northwet have been thoroughly ensconced in winter-like weather for a while now.
Some may begin to feel a bit of longing for summer — Oh, for a bit more daylight! How I long to go about again in shorts!
Sure. We all love summer.
But embrace the season at hand, says I!
Warm yourself in good company, get cozy indoors and turn inwards for fun.
Or, turn to the TV.
Let the light you seek come from a source more cinematic than solar.
As you hunker down for the earnest start of winter weather — maybe entertaining relatives, perhaps getting set to travel to be so entertained by others, or maybe keeping it simple beneath the comforting gaze of your holiday decorations — set a snuggly scene with these hand-picked, snow-dusted silver screen staples.
Mix up some hot chocolate (or a brandy, if you prefer), put the popcorn in a bowl (plenty of time to trim the tree next week) and get thee ‘neath a quilt, Bainbridge.
Because though the weather outside is getting frightful…
Things round here can still be delightful.
1 “Snow Day” (2000)
This unfairly maligned bit of silliness is the perfect pick for those looking to set an all-ages appropriate mood — or maybe just keep the kids busy for a bit.
Three seemingly disparate plots come together perfectly (albeit maybe a bit predictably) as Syracuse, New York is beset by a surprise blizzard and all the local youths are freed for the titular sans school free-for-all.
The film alternatively focuses on:
1. A group of elementary school students trying to keep their school closed for one more day by stopping the local, misanthropic snowplow driver from clearing the streets;
2. One of those kid’s lovesick older brother as he tries to win the heart of his secret crush with the help of his best friend, who (of course) secretly harbors feelings for him; and
3. Their sad sack father (played by Chevy Chase), a TV weatherman, who must face off against a rival while trying to report on the big snow dump.
It’s goofy. It’s simplistic. It’s totally of its time.
But I liked it.
2 “The Edge” (1997)
If the weather round here’s got you down, just be thankful you’re not Anthony Hopkins. Not only is he stranded in the mountains in this flick, beset by the unforgiving wilderness, but he’s got Alec Baldwin whining in his ear all the while.
Taking a break from playing a certain, unspeakably evil psychiatrist, Hopkins here is much more sympathetic as a seemingly wimpy, intellectual billionaire who, tagging along on one of his super model wife’s remote photo shoots, becomes lost in the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness with her sleazy photographer/paramour (Baldwin) and his less-than-helpful assistant.
Oh, and if all that were not enough, they’re being hunted a blood-thirsty bear.
It’ll take every bit of seemingly useless knowledge Hopkins has, and the ability to rise above the trappings of his cultured, metropolitan native milieu, to lead himself the others to safety and confront the truth about his life and marriage on the way.
An honest, engaging man-vs-nature thriller, and one I regularly return to.
3 “The Thing” (1982)
What can I say about this truly incomparable flick that has not already been said?
It is, frankly, a perfect movie.
A crew of men stationed at a remote Antarctica research station find a neighboring camp destroyed and its crew brutally slaughtered. They do rescue a dog, however, only to find out too late that its playing host to a deadly alien predator that wants not only to kill them — but to become them.
Nothing is what it seems.
Nobody can be trusted.
I love this movie!
Kurt Russell steals the show as the whiskey-guzzling malcontent helicopter pilot MacReady, a loner among a gang of loners, who may be the only man on the planet cold enough to survive the bleak winter hellscape in which the men are stranded long enough to defeat the Thing.
Peerless special effects, awesome acting performances from the likes of Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Charles Hallahan and Richard Masur, among others, mix deliciously with John Carpenter’s impeccable style and pacing (and score) to make this a must-see movie.
* For a slightly less graphic option, I recommend the original Howard Hawks production: “The Thing From Another World” (1951). It’s also a fine film that holds up to numerous revisits, and contains much less gore (though it does have a nice bit of perfectly portrayed wholesome, mid-century misogyny). Well, you can’t have it all, I guess.
4 “Groundhog Day” (1993)
Bill “Ghostbustin’” Murray stars in this comedy classic as Phil Connors, an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in the midst of a blizzard, finds himself caught in a strange time warp and cursed to repeat the same day again and again.
Passing through stages of disbelief, hedonism and despair — even several rounds of suicide attempts — the selfish lout at last begins to re-examine his life and priorities.
From Wikipedia: “On its release, ‘Groundhog Day’ was a modest success and garnered generally positive reviews. It gained stronger appreciation among critics and film historians over time, and is now often listed among the best comedy films ever.”
It’s a wonderful wintertime watch.
5 “The Hateful Eight” (2015)
You already know if you like this movie. It’s a Tarantino flick.
The patron saint of all video store clerks, this, his eighth film, details the schemes and scams and power plays of a group of disparate travelers snowed in at a small supply outpost in the remote Wyoming mountains.
Set sometime immediately after the end of the Civil War, this may actually be the most snow-filled movie on the list. That’s really saying something, but I stand by it.
Featuring an all star cast of characters — Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum and a superb Jennifer Jason Leigh — a predictably eclectic Tarantino soundtrack and balletic dialogue, I put it up there as one of the best works by one of the best directors in the game today.
Any/all of the “Harry Potter” films (2001-2011) – Depends on how long you hope to stay indoors, really.
“The Shining” (1980) – To make your family seem just fine.
“Into the Wild” (2007) – For when you’re thinking, “Maybe it’s not so bad out there?’”
“Fargo” (1996) – The classic example of small town noir. You’ll never look at a wood chipper the same way again.
The “Ice Age” franchise (2002-2016) – Just goes to show that even climate change can be cute, if your suspension of disbelief is strong enough.