It's that time of year again! The hap-happiest time when the scent of fresh cut pine trees overrides the less savory odors of the city and everyone seems to know the words to the piped-in muzak. It's also the time for countless Best Of 2016 lists. Best albums, best gifts, best movies, and the category I blessedly made an appearance in this year, best books. These lists are meant to get you caught up on the best of everything just in time for the extra time that winter breaks allow. But while music, books and gift giving are all a big part of December festivities in my home, there is one winter past time that takes the fruitcake--watching old movies. We spend a considerable amount of time snuggling up on the sofa like couch potatoes, or more apropos for us, laying like latkes, changing channels until we stumble upon a favorite flick.
I'm not talking holiday movies. I know all good channel surfers will pause long enough to watch Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed dance backwards into the pool of their school gym or cringe as Ralphie's friend is triple-dog-dared into putting his tongue on that frozen metal pole. I'm talking about those favorite films that are your own. The one's you can watch over and over again, reciting every line as the clicker falls in between the cushions of the sofa, not to be searched for again until the final credits roll.
Here are my personal top-ten, stop me in my tracks, movies.
1. The Royal Tenenbaums
No one does dysfunction quite as colorfully as Wes Anderson. This poignant tale mixes the imperfections of life with quirky fabulousness, making it pure movie magic.
My favorite scene: I could probably watch the scene of Royal playing hooky with his two grandsons and their dog set to Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" on repeat for an entire afternoon and be completely satisfied. And I rarely like montages.
My favorite line: "Let's shag ass."
You may be thinking with all the romantic comedies set in my native New York why have I chosen one set in Oregon? I don't know if it's the sweet story of two such different people finding love or the coupling of real life Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell but once I stumble upon it I can't bare to change the channel.
My favorite scene: Goldie, dressed in an over-sized frock, while Kurt is trying to convince her that she is his wife is priceless. Her deadpan humor is spot-on in that scene.
My favorite line: "I think we can take Olaf"
Runner up: Andrew! Are you going to bring me my lemonade or do I have to squeeze it from my hat?"
This brilliant script with multiple narrators is delivered with accents so pure that one can distinguish Long Island from Brooklyn from the Bronx. While it received six Academy Award nominations everyone knows that the true measure of a good mob tale is the diverse and violent ways in which its characters get whacked. Goodfellas would not only take home that Oscar but be sure to bludgeon someone with it soon afterwards.
My favorite scene: Famous for it's cinematographic oomph, the one long shot of Ray Liotta leading Lorraine Bracco through the back entrance of the Copacabana has me trying to keep up in Karen Hill's high heels every time.
My favorite line: "I know there are women, like my best friends, who would have gotten out of there the minute their boyfriends gave them a gun to hide. But I didn't. I gotta admit the truth, it turned me on."
4. The Sound of Music
I have been sitting a couch watching this movie for as long as I can remember. From the anticipated yearly showing in the "TV room" in my childhood home growing up to the summer when my daughters watched it daily on repeat. They may not have completed their summer math packet but at "How do you solve a problem like Maria" they were quite adept.
My favorite scene- When Captain Von Trapp and Maria share their first dance, the Landelar.
My favorite line: "Somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun. Auf Wiedersehen, darling."
5. Pulp Fiction
If you have read my novel Nine Women, One Dress you know that I'm a big fan of multiple story lines. In Pulp Fiction Tarantino tells many different stories with the actors delivering some of the greatest monologues on film. The comparisons between the two pretty much ends there, but I could sit still for its 2 1/2 hour run time any time. Speaking of time, here is an interesting fact: All the clocks in Pulp Fiction are set at 4:20.
Favorite scene: I'm a sucker for John Travolta dancing. He and Uma Thurman's Twist is both riveting and set at the perfect time to get off the couch and gyrate those hips a bit.
Favorite line: "Besides, Isn't it more exciting when you don't have permission?"
Amy Heckerling's take on Jane Austin's Emma is 90's perfection. Silverstone is a comic genius in this movie Dan Hedaya who plays her father Mel and Stacey Dash her best friend Dionne are right there with her.
My favorite Scene: Every interaction with Cher and her father, beginning with the first when she tries to get him to drink orange juice for his health. Cher and Mel are as great a comic duo as Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
My favorite Line: "What's with you, kid? You think the death of Sammy Davis left an opening in the Rat Pack?"
Cher: "I like this boy, and he likes somebody else."
Mel: "Well, obviously this boy is a complete moron."
As if--I could pick just one.
7. A Walk on the Moon
Everyone goes on and on about the blouse man in this sleeper set in the 60's Catskills, so much so that many people mistakenly call the movie by that name. It's not Viggo Mortensen's blouse man who keeps me watching, it's Leiv Schreiber. The heartbreak and forgiveness he shows in his emotional performance is the main reason that I can't turn away.
My favorite scene: Even though I just pledged my allegiance to Leiv Schreiber, I have to choose the scene during the moon landing, when Pearl and the blouse man first get together. It's done so well, a rare and tender portrayal of a usually tawdry subject.
My favorite line: Marty Kantrowitz: What's goin' on, Ma? Who's gonna drown?
Lily Kantrowitz: [pause] You are.
8. The Graduate
Perfection set to the music of Simon and Garfunkel. I can probably close my eyes and watch this entire movie play out in my head. I don't even need it to be on TV.
Favorite scene- if I have to choose, which is nearly impossible for me, I will just skip to the end, (spoiler alert, in case you've been living under a rock) to Elaine and Benjamin sitting on the city bus alternatively smiling and not smiling.
Interesting fact: Mike Nichols left the camera rolling at the end of the scene to capture the actor's honest reactions.
Depressing Fact: Anne Bancroft who played Mrs. Robinson was just 35 years old in that movie.
My favorite Line: Elaine! Elaine! Elaine!
This is my sentimental frontrunner. It's theme song, I love to see you smile was my wedding song and I gave a copy of the film to my husband to announce that I was pregnant with our first child. Sentiment aside, this movie is filled with a whole lot of relatable and funny.
My favorite scene: The one in the maternity ward at the end. It's corny but the generations of happiness is majorly touching--plus there is the theme song playing in the background.
My favorite line: Julie: I can't do this! This is too intense!
Helen: This is marriage!
10. Home for the Holidays
This dysfunctional families Thanksgiving gathering is cast to perfection. Holly Hunters voice, Charles Durning's dance moves, Robert Downey Junior's antics and every small detail in Anne Bancroft's performance leaves me soaking it all up like Thanksgiving gravy.
My favorite scene: Charles Durning's playing his old film projector in his basement. The remembrance of his family at the airport when they were children, holding on to his leg as a jet takes off is so poignant. That and the scene with the turkey are my two favorites.
My Favorite line: Joanne: Likewise, I'm sure. If I just met you on the street... if you gave me your phone number... I'd throw it away.
Claudia: Well, we don't have to like each other, Jo. We're family.
Which movies stop you in your tracks?