It’s the day before Halloween! So why the hell am I talking about Christmas movies? Well, today is the eight-year anniversary of when Joanna and I got engaged. And that was the day before Halloween! And we met two years before that. At a Halloween party (I in my Freddy glove, she in her Miss Boomstick sash)! But still, why is there a list of non-slasher, non-gory, non-Michael Myers and non-other-assorted-things-we-associate-with-October movies? That’s pretty simple. Because this time of year, while yes, I think about candy corn and Halloween III and Sammi Curr and Rocktober Blood and The Misfits, I also think about Halloweens past, which include meeting and proposing to my wife and everything she’s given me. And she’s given me a lot: two sons, love, tons of laughter, and a best friend. But this is a movie site. So, we’re talking about movies. And she’s given me some of those too. Movies that she brought into my life that I might never have specifically thought to watch or seek out. So in celebration of our engage-iversary and in celebration of her, I thought I’d take a moment out of this year’s scare season to celebrate a few films that, instead of featuring hearts being ripped out, tug at those slashery-soaked heart strings of mine.
Love Actually. Man. Love Actually. When Joanna first pulled the DVD out to watch on a December evening, I think in 2008, I didn’t really have much expectation. Certainly Liam Neeson is cool enough and Emma Thompson is always great. I was pretty sure I had seen the movie cover at a video store before…but there was nothing that stood out to make me think this film was going to be as great as it is. In a weird (to me) turn, Hugh Grant is pretty great and Alan Rickman is not. And we watch it almost every year and I get teary-eyed every time. Never saw that coming.
Indian Summer. This is probably the movie I most likely would’ve checked out at some point on my own. Movies set at summer camps in some way are always appealing to me. Sam Raimi having a part in it certainly would’ve piqued my interest. The reunion of old friends angle is always good. Throw in the fact that these characters read comics and that’s a bunch of stuff I’d be into. If I had ever heard of it.
The Family Stone. Prior to watching this movie, there was no particular reason I would think I might not like it or anything. There just isn’t anything that’s gonna make me grab it off the shelf in the sea of other new release DVDs. I like much of the cast just fine and no problems anywhere. But in 2005, when I was looking for Yuletide cinema at my local video store, I leaned a lot more towards Santa’s Slay than Diane Keaton and Sarah Jessica Parker. These days it might be 50/50 though.
Now and Then. Well, let’s just say I never thought I’d get teary-eyed watching a Rosie O’Donnell film.
White Squall. A boyhood adventure coming-of-age film with two of my favorite dudes ever (Jeff Bridges and Jeremy Sisto), but I never gave this movie a second thought. It was released in the mid-90s, when I was a teenager and also of the mind that if it wasn’t horror, it wasn’t shit (unless it was Mallrats). Add to that the fact that I always assumed it was some sort of Winona Ryder kinda drama (How to Make an American Quilt maybe?)…well, you know.
Home for the Holidays. This film has been a Thanksgiving staple in our house since the first November we spent together. Movies you might describe as “character pieces” were not high on my list of stuff to check out growing up, so this excellent little diddy slipped right by me. Holly Hunter rules in this picture and it also features my hands down favorite Robert Downey Jr. performance ever. The movie also serves as a nice mid-season pallet cleanser, between the blood and guts of October and the hodge podge of slashery, Muppety, sappy, nostalgic, Billy Bob Thorton-y December magic.
Parenthood. I’m throwing Parenthood on here, though I had seen it a few times prior to watching it with Joanna. I grew up thinking Steve Martin was pretty much the funniest person on the face of the planet, though at the time, Parenthood was probably where it ended for me (though later in life I also came to appreciate some of his post-PH films, to be sure). But yeah, I had seen the movie and knew the movie, but I hadn’t watched it in a number of years. So re-watching it with my wife, who I will be spending the rest of my life with and raising our sons with and going up and down and up and down and up and down with on Grandma’s metaphorical roller coaster of life…well, the movie means quite a bit more to me now than it did to the tween I was when I first saw it. And the final delivery room shot…well, I’m getting emotional now just thinking about it.
And speaking of getting emotional…if you read all this, then thank you. If you didn’t, it’s okay. Because I really only wrote it for one set of eyes. And I hope that this Halloween night, all of you will be snuggled up close next to someone you love, sharing a bowl of candy corn and a two-pack of Reese’s peanut butter pumpkins while watching Trick R’ Treat. I know I will be.