New Year’s Resolutions: In Movies!
Happy New Year! Now 2022 is here, it’s time to start making and breaking those resolutions for the next twelve months. Our resident film buff, Lee Adams, looked up some of the most common New Year resolutions, threw in a few of his own, and matched each with a classic movie pairing. We love this one!
Balance Your Priorities: Booksmart (2019)
A good education is important, of course, but you also need to make the most of your school life before all the joys of adulthood kick in for good. That’s something that the two protagonists of Booksmart realise just before it’s too late. Amy (Amy Antsier) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are two bookish high school students who have spent too much time studying hard to bother with parties and friends. As graduation approaches, they find out that partying hasn’t stopped their fellow students from receiving offers from prestigious colleges. The pair then decide to make up for lost time while they still can…
Booksmart is one of the smartest and funniest comedies of the past ten years, blending elements of Superbad and Dazed and Confused. The coming-of-age buddy comedy is often the domain of guys behaving badly, so Olivia Wilde’s raucous, whipsmart film flips that trope on its head and lets the girls have all the fun this time around. The sharp screenplay throws in a few surprises to freshen up the well-worn premise, and Antsier and Feldstein are such a wonderful pair of dorks to follow on their odyssey.
Get Fit: Chariots of Fire (1981)
Getting in shape is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, and there are plenty of sports-related movies to inspire you on your quest. I’m plumping for the British Best Picture Oscar winner Chariots of Fire, simply because its famous beach running sequence is one of the most graceful and evocative sports scenes in history.
The film focuses on two very fast men who run for different reasons; Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) sees winning as a chance to conquer the anti-semitic prejudice he has experienced, while Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) is a devout Christian who runs for the glory of God. Both men clash with the stuffy establishment as they make their way to the 1924 Olympics in Paris.
The iconic score from Vangelis is overused to the point where it feels a bit weird seeing it again in its original context, accompanying the runners as they train on the beach in their whites. Chariots of Fire is a fleeting, poignant glimpse at a world of amateur sport now long gone.
Eat Better: Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
Many of us could do with eating a bit healthier, but what about eating better too?
It’s unfair to dismiss this absorbing documentary as food porn, but it certainly has plenty of money shots of sushi master Jiro Ono’s mouth-watering creations… even if you’re not really into sushi, like me. Ono is an inspiring character, a humble man who has dedicated his life to perfecting his craft, serving sushi from his tiny ten-seater, three Michelin star restaurant in a Tokyo subway station.
Get Out of the Rat Race: The Mosquito Coast (1986)
One good thing that has come out of the pandemic is that millions of people are realizing there is more to life than chaining yourself to a desk for 40 hours a week, resulting in “The Great Resignation,” with record numbers of workers quitting their jobs for something more fulfilling or just for a better work-life balance.
To start edging your way out of the rat race, you don’t need to go as far as inventor Allie Fox (Harrison Ford) in The Mosquito Coast, who is so sick of the western way of life that he takes his family away to live in the jungles of Central America. Fox, a fierce, uncompromising idealist, is a strong character for Ford, re-teaming with Peter Weir after Witness, and the film also features the young River Phoenix in another early eye-catching role.
Finish Writing That Novel: Misery (1990)
This is the Stephen King adaptation about a writer stuck in an isolated, deadly situation that Stephen King did like, after his vocal criticism of Kubrick’s The Shining. Where the frustrated Jack Torrance was struggling to start his book, we meet successful author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) as he has just achieved a feat many wannabe writers can only dream of… actually finishing a novel!
Unfortunately for him, a car crash on the icy road home leaves him in the creepy care of his “Number One Fan” Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates in an Oscar-winning performance). She’s not happy that Sheldon has killed off the beloved heroine of his historical romances, and holds him prisoner until he writes another book bringing her back to life.
Rob Reiner’s taut psycho thriller is a superb two-hander with Caan and Bates at their best, relishing an excellent William Goldman script that works in a good deal of humour among the nail-biting suspense.
Pursue Your Dreams: Midnight in Paris (2011)
Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is a successful Hollywood screenwriter who dreams of living in Paris and becoming a novelist, much to the annoyance of his materialistic wife Inez (Rachel McAdams). She’d rather he continued selling his soul writing dumb but lucrative screenplays instead.
Gil’s ambitions get a magical boost on their trip to Paris when an unexplained phenomenon transports him back to the 1920’s every night at midnight, where he gets to hang out with his artistic idols like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein.
With interesting points to make about nostalgia and a breezy charm, Midnight in Paris is one of Woody Allen’s most entertaining modern films, with Wilson making an appealing change of pace to the director’s usual neurotic East coast intellectuals.
Take Care of Your Mental Health: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
David O. Russell’s idiosyncratic approach might seem like a risky choice for a rom-com about two troubled people suffering from mental illness, but somehow he pulls it off to crowd-pleasing effect with Silver Linings Playbook. Key to the film’s success is its cast; not only are Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in top form, there are also terrific supporting turns from Chris Tucker and Robert De Niro in one of his best performances in years.
Cooper plays Pat, a man with bipolar disorder home from the psychiatric hospital, who just wants to get his life together and win back his wife. Lawrence is Tiffany, a troubled young widow who is drawn to Pat despite his frequent inappropriate outbursts. Mental illness is no laughing matter, but Russell treads a fine line between black comedy and pathos, pulling out a feel-good ending that feels right and earned for both characters.
Clean Up Your Act: Rocketman (2019)
While the shoddy Bohemian Rhapsody inexplicably received a Best Picture Oscar nomination, the far superior Rocketman was almost completely overlooked by the Academy. That must have perplexed director Dexter Fletcher, the man who was parachuted in to rescue the Freddie Mercury biopic after Bryan Singer was given his marching orders.
Rocketman is a jukebox musical that does an imaginative job of utilizing Elton John’s back catalogue, rearranging the numbers in unusual ways and putting them in the mouths of the supporting characters as well as our protagonist. There’s not much to the story other than this: Elton John gets famous, hits the booze and drugs, then decides to get his act together.
However, the song and dance numbers are electric and the film centres on an incredibly engaging performance from Taron Egerton as the famed singer, which for me begged the question: why can’t Egerton be Elton John all the time? I much prefer him to the real one…
Commit Random Acts of Kindness: Amelie (2001)
After most of us have spent large chunks of the past two years stuck in our personal bubbles, it’s a bit of a shock to go outside and interact with other people again. It’s the perfect time for this resolution - after tough times, why not do a little something every now and then to cheer someone up?
That’s Amélie Poulain’s whole approach in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s gorgeous fantasy set in a chocolate-box Paris. Audrey Tatou is irresistibly sweet as a shy young waitress who decides to improve the lives of those around her with random, anonymous acts of kindness. While I suspect Amelie’s relentless cutesiness might irritate some cynics, it is still a whimsical celebration of the magic of small things.
Be More Sustainable: Koyaanisqatsi (1982)
I’ll try to do my bit for the climate this year by cutting back on my meat consumption, and there are plenty of films out there to inspire individual action. You could take Al Gore’s frightening lecture, An Inconvenient Truth, or watch the end of the world popcorn movie, The Day After Tomorrow, but I prefer the meditative power of Godfrey Reggio’s remarkable Koyaanisqatsi.
This non-narrative montage contrasting nature footage and human activity, set to Phillip Glass’s immersive score, creates a vital, moving portrait of mankind’s troubled relationship with the planet. The stunning imagery has the striking effect of making you see things anew, wordlessly and movingly essaying a fragile world full of wonder that is now perilously on the brink.
Visit an old Friend: The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
It’s sometimes hard enough to stay in touch with people anyway without a pandemic making it difficult to hang out and socialise, so hopefully 2022 will be a year for catching up with people we haven’t seen for ages. One of the great films about friendship is The Shawshank Redemption, another excellent adaptation of a Stephen King story. Tim Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongfully sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his wife, while Morgan Freeman is Red, another lifer resigned to seeing out his days within the walls of Shawshank prison.
The meandering, episodic nature of the story is well-suited to following the growing friendship between the two men over the decades as Dufresne goes from an abused new “fish” to a respected member of the prison, using his quiet influence to improve the lives of other inmates while earning a position of favour with the corrupt warden and the sadistic head screw.
Darabont takes his time unfolding the tale, withholding one vital piece of information to keep the audience guessing about how Andy will make his glorious escape before his uplifting reunion with his old pal, Red.
Watch More Movies: Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Cinema Paradiso was the first foreign language film I ever saw, and it makes me cry every time. I’m even getting a little teary just writing about it! Without giving too much away, its beautiful final scene is such a wonderful gesture of love and friendship, as well as a pure celebration of the magic of movies.
Winner of the Best Foreign Language Oscar, Giuseppe Tornatore’s period drama follows Toto (Salvatore Cascio), a young lad obsessed with movies who befriends Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), the grumpy projectionist of the Cinema Paradiso, a small theatre in their small Sicilian town.
Shamelessly touching and nostalgic, Cinema Paradiso is one of the great films about films. It’s wistful, funny, romantic, and makes a strong case for the redemptive power of cinema. And, if there was ever a better reminder, we should all watch more movies!
Those are my New Year’s Resolution movie pairings. What are your goals for the coming year, and do you have a film that inspires you? Let us know!
A very Happy New Year from all of the Art of the Movies team!